January 6th, 2006

smokin'

Failures In Freelancing Part 2

You folks seemed to enjoy the first Failure, so what the hell, here's another one. I think we'll do these once a week from now on, time and material permitting. If Sarah has some spare time maybe we can scan some rejected gag panels and strips as well as unused visual material, character designs, etc.

Today's Failure is something I pitched to Marvel a couple of years ago, while I was scripting the "Night Falls on Yancy Street" Thing mini-series (a Failure itself in its own way). Andy Lis was the editor on the Thing series, as well as the Captain America Red, White and Blue project that I contributed a two-page Milk and Cheese-style Baron Zemo/Red Skull gag strip to. If I recall correctly, I was giving him some grief about the fact that the artists on the Captain America book were supposed to only use red, white and blue in their palette, but several artists went beyond that, and the reprinted comics were in full color -- so what was the point of the high concept if it didn't run throughout the entire book? I wasn't really upset, but I did think the strip would have looked better in full color, and I started to harangue Andy about it, and he made some remark about me doing a book of gag strips so we could reprint the Cap story in full color, and it became a running joke, and then one day he called my bluff via e-mail. So the next day I wrote a half-serious pitch for a comic called "How To Draw Marvel Comics the Evan Dorkin Way" in about a half an hour or so, and e-mailed it to Andy. Fastest pitch I ever did, maybe because I was joking and had no real reason to believe anyone would go for it. That's why the pitch is pretty informal and rough, so bear that in mind.

Anyway, here's the pitch, after which is the wrap-up of what became of it:


HOW TO DRAW MARVEL COMICS THE EVAN DORKIN WAY

A one-shot special proposed by Evan Dorkin. Blame Andrew Lis.

In a nutshell: I write and draw stupid comics and gag strips about the Marvel Universe. Sarah colors the whole mess. Basically, the book would be my own private Bizarro (but hopefully a little less restrained). An extension of the “How to Get Sued” panels from Dork, only legitimized. An updated Not Brand Ecch. We could do it as a Max book to allow us to go over the top if we choose to, certainly the adult language (and occasional gross-out) would add a dimension Bizarro didn’t have (and probably needed). Or we could do it for a general audience, I have no problem leaving that decision up to Marvel. If the title stinks (although I really like it), we could always just call it NOT BRAND ECCH and make it a revamp title (only no Forbush Man). Or call it BRAND ECCH or NOT BRAND ECCH 2099. As you suggested when you put this goddamned idea in my head, we can reprint the 2-pg Cap strip in a “director’s cut”, and maybe add some new material to it along with the full color. The material would be a combination of stories, strips and maybe even gag panels. And if we do it, and people like it, you could spin this off into an anthology title or let another semi-known idiot take a crack at it.

Below is a list of strip springboards off the top of my head, some written while I couldn’t sleep last night, a few fished out of my files. Right now these are all general ideas, some work, some need work, some might stink the house out. But this is to show I’ve got some material in mind, and I’m sure over time I can fill 24 pages with some great/awful crap. Obviously if we ended up doing this we’d sit down and knock ideas and characters and things we hate/love about Marvel around and see what falls out.

Anyway, that’s the goddamned pitch, thanks for putting this nonsense into my head.

POSSIBLE MATERIAL FOR THIS FIASCO --------------------

COOL HAND GALACTUS
Parody of Cool Hand Luke, Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and Marvel space-types.
Galactus in a planet eating contest. Someone says, “Nobody can eat fifty planets in an hour”. Galactus says he can. Watcher, Recorder, Ego, Surfer, Kree leader, etc all make bets, take sides, etc. As Galactus eats planets, Recorder names them? Venus, Earth, Mercury (heartburn), Pluto (brain freeze), etc. Runs out of planets with a minute to go. Eats Ego. At the end, someone asks him if he wants dessert. Piss off! “How about this moon? It’s wafer-thin?”. Galactus eats it, explodes. Maybe Ego’s face remains, all chewed up. Duh.

MAYBE A SPIDER-MAN BIT
I’m intrigued by the fact that this “genius” Peter Parker could design and sew an intricate Spider-man costume, develop, design and manufacture breakthrough equipment like web-shooters and one-sided optical lenses for his mask – AND – develop and create the Spider-web fluid, a revolutionary chemical compound with a million uses – YET HE CAN”T FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE MONEY TO PAY THE $!@&# RENT. This is a stupid bastard who needs to be made fun of.

FROM ATLANTIS, WITH LOVE (tent title)
2-pages. Big dramatic build up as Prince Namor amasses a huge army, soldiers, weapons, monsters – and moves on NYC. Some super-hero, or FF member, or whatever, walks up to him, and says, “Did you know, if you remove the “n” from your name, it’s Spanish for “love””? Namor stares at him. Looks at his troops. Dejected, he calls off the attack. Skulks home silently. The end.

HULK SMASHED
Bar fighting Bruce Banner. Hulk drunkest one there is! Got powers from drinking experiment gone horribly wrong, all Rick Jones fault. AA doesn’t work. Betty Ross can’t help. Abomination et al also drunks.

REED RICHARDS – THE FANTASTIC CAD!
60’s era characters. Sue finds out Reed’s been cheating on her, bringing dates up to outer space in a rocket with their brothers. Result – a dozen or so cosmic ray-altered mistresses and hangers on. Reed ‘stretched a bit too thin”. Maybe work into X-Wives or vice versa. All of Reed’s mistresses are cosmic ray-altered creeps. Stretch this gag out!

PEEPING UATU (sp)
The Watcher spies on people screwing, taking a dump, peeing in an alley, cheating on taxes, etc. Big head sticking itself into people’s business. See notes thrown into “superhero file”

I WAS THE DUMB SON OF A BITCH WHO RELEASED (a monster or a bunch of monster names) ON AN UNSUSPECTING WORLD
Marvel Monster parody? Maybe the Have Nagila Monster (sp), a Jewish monster book parody. Something with MONSTERS.

THE INHUMANS AT THE BEACH – 1pg
Inhumans at the beach. Medusa in a bathing suit, reveals her sinewy, long, living armpit hair. A shocked Black Bolt shouts, “Good god woman, shave your pits!”. The beach explodes from BB’s vocal blast and sends everyone into the next time zone, etc. Ha ha.

THE YANCY STREET GANGBANG
Due to the constraints of the Comics Code Authorities, we regret to inform the readers that “The Yancy Street gangbang” strip originally scheduled for this space will not be presented. Instead, we offer (replacement strip, short) We regret any inconvenience this may have caused some of our lonelier readers. (sim: Marvel Two On One)

MUNDANE THINGS KANG THE CONQUEROR DOES WITH HIS TIME MACHINE (IN HIS SPARE TIME)
Kidnaps Michael Stipe or Bono in the early 80’s when they didn’t stink and said they’d never do videos or whatever. Kang takes them into the present, where they’re horrified to see what they’ve become. They go back in time to stop themselves or something dumb.

IDEAS THAT AREN’T FLESHED OUT YET, OR ARE VAGUE AS HELL: (some of which can be done as “fun”-type strips)

CAPTAIN AFRO-AMERICA AND BUCKWHEAT (a Mi-T Marvel Pin-Up) (will not be presented due to the fact that it’s sort of racist and stupid. Sorry, money will not be refunded. Go read your dumb old Black Goliath comics, offendi)
TWENTY WAYS TO OFF AUNT MAY
THE X-WIVES
MAD THINKER AND AWESOME ANDROID in prison or something dumb. On the road. Running a business. Something mundane or really out of place for a few panels. Or a “buddy movie” parody, or maybe “Of Mice and Men”, only the Android can’t be killed. I just like those two idiots. God, I’m stupid.
Similarly, something with MODOK? Why? Because.
THE SUPER ADOPTOID
BLASTARR AND ANNIHILUS in the NEGATIVE ZONE. Down on everything. Nobody has anything good to say. No, no, nuh-uh. This place sucks. Sure does.
SGT ROCK AND HIS HOWLER MONKEY COMMANDOS
THE NO-GUN KID. Loses a duel and dies. Because he has no guns.
DON’T PLAY CHARADES WITH SKRULLS. THEY CHEAT.
MARVEL VILLAINS wonder why they can’t rob a bank outside NY. Why they spend a million dollars to steal a hundred thousand. Why they wear a costume that telegraphs who they are and how they can be defeated. Why they like to wear purple and green so much. Why they’re sad. No real definite place for this, just making notes.
Maybe another SKULL and ZEMO strip. Who knows, I might have an idea. I like drawing them. Maybe a SUPER-VILLAIN TAG TEAM-UP with Dr Doom, Kang, whoever we like.
A Norse God finds a hammer, strikes it and becomes a crippled doctor. He falls down. Dies. Somewhere Odin cracks up.
THE PUPPET MASTER works kid’s birthday parties.
A very fake letters page.
Very fake ads for very fake books.

Okay, I gotta stop this nonsense and get back to the Thing script. Later!


And there you have it. "How To Draw Marvel Comics The Evan Dorkin Way".

So what happened to this earth-shattering idea? Well, about three days after I e-mailed it to Andy he called to let me know Marvel had accepted it.

I think my reply was something along the lines of, "W-what? Are you fucking kidding me? They want to do this? Really? You're kidding, right?"

I was shocked as shit. But happy as hell, because writing and drawing this sucker would have been a ton of fun, and with Sarah coloring it, a very healthy payday for said ton of fun. I didn't think it would sell a ton, but I thought it might do okay and get some buzz behind it. I was pretty excited. And they were okay with the title. Neat-o!

I started compiling more material and notes for the book while working on the Thing and Agent X scripts for Andy, and we discussed the book from time to time. Some of the pitched material was creaky and would need to be reworked or trashed. I wanted the book to come off as if marvel had paid me to do an issue of Dork, only with Marvel characters, lots of strips, gag panels, odds and ends. As time went on, Marvel lawyers nixed the idea of doing it as a Max imprint book, at least not if we wanted to use top tier Marvel characters. They weren't going to let their main licensed superheroes curse, screw, etc, I think there was some flap about the Garth Ennis Nick Fury comics tossing a monkey wrench into a Hollywood deal or something along those lines, and the legal eagles were even more protective of the reputations of the core super-types who appeared on undies and toys. I can't really blame them. Sure, I was disappointed because I was hoping they'd let me cut loose, but it was no deal breaker, I can work clean, or semi-clean, and we knew that if we didn't use Spider-Man, the FF and Cap et al, the book was dead in the water.

Well, the book ended up dead in the water anyway. Before we could get it started, Andy was transferred to marketing, the Thing situation hadn't gone well, and Marvel wasn't enamored of anything I had been doing for them. When I first signed on to do a few jobs for Marvel, a well-known someone with a big desk up there told me they were glad I was doing work for them. By the time the Thing and Agent X saw print, I think they would have been a lot happier if I was emptying wastebaskets and changing the toilet paper there. So, with a deteriorated relationship at Marvel, some unhappy experiences with editorial "vision" (mainly that of the esteemed writer/scholar/gentleman Bill Jemas) and my editor no longer in my corner, I decided to cut bait and head for the hills. I jumped off, before I could be kicked off, or ticked off.

Personally, I don't think the book would have happened, even if I tried to keep it going. There was never any discussion of it one way or the other, I just let the project fade away, and nobody at Marvel ever asked about it. Or noticed, probably. Several months ago I was asked to draw a few pages for the Great Lakes Avengers holiday special -- I couldn't do it because of my schedule, but it was nice to be asked because I assumed I was on the Marvel "Don't Call" loser list.

Still, it would have been a kick to put out a comic called "How to Draw Marvel Comics the Evan Dorkin Way".
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