A Fly On the Wall at Historic Comics Meetings

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 to DC: 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 with 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 the 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 with DC Comics (one of the first in the wave of years of exclusive contract signings). Now, apparently Quesada found out about this when Grant told him at the San Diego Comic-Con mere 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 about 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:

Legendary Comics Meetings
What Meeting Would You Like To Be a Fly on the Wall for?

Image Founders Quit
Marc Alessi’s Crossgen
Jim Lee Sells Wildstorm
Rob Liefeld Departs Image
Grant Morrison Breaks Up with Marvel
Civil War Delayed…Again

 

Comments

  1. Fun topic!

    I remember reading a rumor years ago (which I can’t find online anywhere this morning, mind you) that Jim Shooter entertained the notion of wiping out the Marvel Universe and replacing it with the New Universe. Long-time creators, so the legend goes, rose up as one and charged the office with pitchforks and torches. This account may have been exaggerated. Still. No doubt a very entertaining meeting.

  2. Neat topic, Ron. For as much as I have been disappointed by Secret Invasion, I would’ve loved to have watched the meeting in which Brian Bendis let loose his plans for the mini while detailing how he had been seeding its backstory in the different titles he was responsible for writing. Because, really, it almost must have been something akin to a coup: "You know know that I’ve been doing this, but I have, and now this is the story that I’m going to run with."

     

  3. I love this topic entirely too much.   I propose Jim Shooter telling Chris Claremont that Jean Grey will be coming back and Chris won’t be writing that storyline.  I bet that was the funnest meeting ever.

     

     

  4. Is Augie’s article up–I can’t find it on the link?

  5. I don’t think that Augie’s articles hit the web until Tuesday afternoons.

  6. I propose the meeting that led to the creation of Vibe.

  7. I’ll raise you Vibe, and would like to be in on Busiek’s pitch for Triathlon.

    But Vibe is pretty hard to beat. 

  8. I would’ve love to have been in the offices of Joe Q and wonder why One More Day had to be published. Hearing JMS talking about the story and then hearing Joe why it’s all ‘just magic’ to explain the story.

    I wouldnt be a fly though, I’d be a mosquito….and I’d suck the blood out of Joe Q until he gets is as pale as Casper the friendly ghost. Yeah you can tell I’m still pissed at that storyline.

  9. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    This is a boring answer, but:

    I’d kill to be a fly on the wall when the heroes were being created, Superman especially.  When there were no other heroes to compare the idea to.  The birth of a genre.  

    Other than that:

    Any of the phone calls between Mignola and his editor.  Apparently epic conversations about the development of the character and story.  

  10. I want to be in on the meeting between Jim Sterenko and his editor when he was told he wouldn’t recieve a full paycheck for writing on an issue of Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD because it had the famous "silent scene" where there were no words for a few pages.  Supposedly, Sterenko threatened to drop him out the window if he didn’t get paid in full for drawing AND writing that scene.

  11. The delays involved with Civil War didn’t just affect that book alone but affected Marvels whole line of books and a bunch of creators own vision for their own books.  I think Marvel is playing it safe this time by taking Yu off New Avengers so he can focus on Secret Invasion, however I just hope Bendis’ story doesn’t drag on forever.  Come on get out of the jungle.

    But anyway, great article Ron.  It was a good read for someone (like me) who doesn’t know all the background information surrounding the industry.

  12. I’m a big history buff. Mostly Revolutionary history. I think of those great moments where you wish you were there when something happened. Then you read about John Adams and he informs you that those moments were only exciting, interesting–momentous–afterward in the context of history.

     

    I’ve been there for certain meetings, events, moments in comic book "history" and they, as well, aren’t thes big dramatic moments. I was standing next to Joe Q when Stephen King said we should do The Stand. It wasn’t an earth-shattering moment. It was a simple conversation that slipped by as an other would.

     

    I’ve been there for others as well. I’ve been privvy to info before anyone else, I’ve been a "fly on the wall". And now, thinking about them, I think because they WEREN’T those moments you see on a soap opera just before the commercial, they are more real, more interesting, and more worthy of interest. It’s real people doing what they do without thought of the "big moment".

     

    Still, very cool.

  13. I think the firing of Bob Greenberger would be a good one. No one has ever really spoken up as to what actually happened with this miscue of the Golden Age Hawkman Archives.

    Also the initial meeting regarding the Showcase Presents line and how DC went about publishing a better Marvel Essential.

  14. I’d prefer to be a fly on the wall when Marvel decided to take Claremont off of the X-Men.

    Or when they decided to do Heroes Reborn.

    I’d then like to transform back into a human and tell them not to do those things, ’cause they were huge mistakes, IMO.

     

  15. Here’s another boring one for you – the meeting where it was decided to launch Heroes: Reborn. The idea to bring Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld back to Marvel. Maybe this has even been covered somewhere and I missed it. I read Heroes: Reborn Fantastic Four, and then a few issues of the Heroes: Return Fantastic Four, and I guess nearly the whole line was wrapped up in a pcoket universe by Xavier as Onslaught. But more than anything I wonder what the conversation was like to get to somebody saying – "Hey, let’s get Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld." I wonder if they ever kicked any other names around and said, "Ummm, no."   

  16. @Eliopoulos – Sure, there’s fact, but clearly fantasy is much more exciting, isn’t it?  Quit ruining our fun!

    I’d have loved to be at like a Marvel retreat when a couple guys really get into it and argue about something like the direction some character should be taken in.  The "Thor fight".  And people always refer to it like, "hey man, I’m not looking for a Thor-fight here." and they chuckle, because it was infamous.

    I just want to read about heated arguments over the Hulk. 

  17. What I meant to say was a lightning bolt struck the floor and out popped Rob Liefeld who, with golden sceptor in hand, battled the rest of the Image founders in a life or death match to see who would survive.

     

    🙂

  18. Wow!  That’s just how I heard it happened!  Awesome!

  19. One  more recent history i’d have; BKV’S pitch for Ex Machina. Given the premise of the book and the time at which it was published, I’d imagine BKV had to word things pretty carefully;