Friday, September 30, 2011

Forget Paris and More Items of Interest


Forget Paris

Wednesday, I told you the Secret Origin of the X-Men creative team’s Great European Expedition, so nicely documented by JayJay along with contributors to this blog yesterday. There’s a coda to that tale.

A week or two after returning from the Great Expedition, one beautiful June Friday, John Romita, Jr., international bon vivant, turned up at my office to say merci beaucoup for arranging the trip, which he thoroughly enjoyed, despite a minor contretemps resulting from his unfamiliarity with the language, specifically, French for “she’s married.”

Zut alors!

But John escaped alive, was glad to be home and wanted to buy me a thank-you grapefruit juice. That was my libation of choice in those days.

Marvel closed at one PM on Fridays during the summer. So, soon, we were off to a lunch place and hangout in the neighborhood, Buchbinders, which was at the corner of Third and 27th, I think. Bob Layton somehow heard or sensed that someone else was buying and tagged along.

We had one round at Buchbinders, for which John dutifully paid, but then he and Bob wanted to go to a classier, better venue. My spider-sense was warning me that there was danger ahead, but….

We cabbed to the Water Club, a very upscale restaurant built atop a barge that’s moored in the East River just south of the heliport at 34th Street. Beautiful place, very elegant, great food. It has a relatively casual rooftop bar called the Crow’s Nest, and that, on this sunny, perfect June afternoon, was the destination.

The Crow’s Nest had everything—a brilliant view of the city, boats and ships gliding up and down the river, helicopters landing and taking off next door…

…and a very charming, beautiful waitress. Let’s call her Chloe—not her real name.

After quickly and expertly ascertaining that Chloe was a mademoiselle, John, in his polite and witty way, made conversation at every opportunity. A simple truth:

More rounds of drinks = more opportunities

Uh-oh. How much grapefruit juice can a man take?

Hours passed….

At some point, finally, John went over to the servers’ station, directed Chloe’s attention to a helicopter taking off and told her that he and his friends were going to charter a ‘copter tonight and fly down to Atlantic City. Would she like to come?

A moment later, John returned to the table, visibly shaken. She said yes. He never expected her to say yes.

So, he said, excitedly, we have to do it! Are you with me?

No, I said. But since I was the only one sober enough to dial a phone, I’d find out for him what it would cost.

Too much. The heliport closed at one AM, I think, so you’d have to pay to keep the heliport open all night as well as for the flight, the pilot, a hotel room for the pilot so he could sleep while you lost money at the casino…way too much. But the Yellow Pages enlightened me to the fact that you could charter a small airplane for less than we’d spent on beverages.

Did I mention that John and Bob switched from cocktails to Dom Perignon at $110 a bottle, once they crossed the threshold of expansiveness? Did I mention that John was passing out flute-fulls to strangers. “Come on! Join the party!”

Voilà.

John insisted, demanded that we do it, that we all go, which would somehow make it less spooky for Chloe, I suppose.

You know…I was making pretty good money, I generally worked long hours and worked every day…I was single, so it wasn’t like I was invading the kids’ college fund. And, I had a feeling, even if I had to live on rice and beans for a month afterward, that this was going to become a story I would tell for the rest of my life.

And John, younger than me and at least as crazy, had X-Men royalties to burn.

Okay.

At eleven PM, Chloe was supposed to get off work. But some other server didn’t show up, there was a wedding reception running long and they needed her to stay till at least two AM. Sorry.

John said to me, “What are we going to do?”

I growled, “There’s a plane waiting for us on the tarmac at the Marine Air Terminal. It’s paid for.  Non-refundable. On my credit card. We are going to Atlantic City. Got it?”

As we were leaving, Chloe gave me a note with her number on it. She said, “I gave my number to Johnny, but I think he might lose it, so, if he does, give him this, okay?”

So off went we three cab-alleros in a taxi. The Marine Air Terminal is next door to La Guardia.

It was a small plane. Seated five, I think. Bob asked if he could sit in the copilot’s seat, and the pilot allowed it.

The pilot was a nice guy, clearly good at what he did and as nuts as we were. After we took off, he let Bob drive! No, Bob isn’t a pilot, or wasn’t at the time, anyway. “Head toward the World Trade Towers,” said the pilot, “and turn left.”

Bob wanted to try flying between the towers, but the pilot said no. He wasn’t that nuts.

Bob drove all the way down. The pilot had a cooler full of beer and soda onboard, so there was Bob with a beer in one hand and the steering yoke in the other….

The pilot landed the plane, told us to call him when we wanted to return and went off to nap somewhere.

We went to Caesars and spent three or four hours playing blackjack. Because the gods smile upon nitwits sometimes, Bob broke even, John won a bottle or two of Dom’s worth, though he was fuzzy-headed enough by then to be splitting tens (drawing aces to each of them!) and I won a bit more than he did. That eased the pain in the wallet a little.

We flew back as the sun was coming up. Beautiful. Bob drove again.

Back in Manhattan, I went home, Bob went home and John, who lived in Long Beach, Long Island, fell asleep sitting on the curb out in front of the parking garage where his Beamer was imprisoned waiting for the place to open. So he said. I believe a policeman gently awakened him.

John, indeed, lost Chloe’s number, but I gave him the spare. I believe they ended up being an item for a while.

I have told that story many times. There’s more to tell…but not here.

C’est tout.


More Items of Interest

Back when I worked for DC in 1975, for some reason I was given these models sheets. Things certainly have changed since then:
Click to enlarge

Another  Hembeck original.  I have no idea why he drew it with an orange marker:

Herb Trimpe and my father, Kenneth Shooter in Herb’s plane.  Lousy picture, great memory:
(Made a little less lousy by the Blog Elf)
The story behind this picture, here.
NEXT:  Back to Serious Stuff 



Thursday, September 29, 2011

The X-Men Team’s 1985 European Tour


JayJay here. Jim is suffering through a power outage, so while he sits in the dark I thought we could just do a blog post ourselves, and by ourselves I mean done by our readers! There’s the Mickey Rooney/Andy Hardy side of me coming out! To add to Jim’s story from yesterday about the X-Men team’s European tour in 1985 our reader, the wonderful Stéphane Garrelie, has scanned an article from Strange Magazine and translated it for us. And many thanks as well to Ferran Delgado for the photos from the Barcelona convention. 

Strange Magazine was published by Editions Lug located in Lyons, France and headed at the time by the lovely Claude Vistel, one of two French publishers, that did translated reprints of Marvel Comics. Our reader Xavier Lancel explains that Lug is short for Lugdunum, the roman name of Lyon. Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr., Ann Nocenti and Dan Green went to Paris to promote the X-men and partly to research issue 200 which has Magneto on trial in Paris. That story was, of course, reprinted in Special Strange as well.
And that sparked their European tour!

Here to do reconnaissance on location for the scenery of the 200th issue of the X-Men in Paris, they didn't want to leave for London without visiting us.

Chris Claremont, John Romita Junior, Dan Green, Ann Nocenti....

FOUR AMERICANS IN LUGDUNUM!

Chris Claremont: We were hesitating between Greece, Egypt, and other dream countries, but when John mentioned France and most of all Paris, everybody agreed. The 200th issue of the X-Men had to be set in Paris!

Lug: So you came to do reconnaissance of the scenery?

John Romita Jr: Yes. We leave with lots of ideas and sketches, and impregnated forever with the extraordinary mood of this capital!

Lug: Will we see the X-Men as tourists in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés?

Chris Claremont: Not exactly! -Laughs- The theater of the events will be the Hall of Justice... which by the way the X-Men will blow up!!

Lug: But that's a provocation! A "casus belli"!

Ann Nocenti: You know, at Marvel, we like to stir controversy!

John Romita Jr: We love it, you wanna say! See, Storm... Why do you think we made a punk out of her?

Lug: Who got that idea first? You John, or you Chris?

Chris Claremont: I couldn't say, All the four of us probably!

Lug: The four of you?... But how do you organise yourselves? Do you work together?

John Romita Jr: No. Most of our contacts are by phone. We rarely see each other! When Chris has the plot written, he gives it to me to draw. It's only when my art is finished, and submited to the appreciation of Ann, that Chris adds matter to his script and put the dialogue in place. Dan does the inks at the very end, after the lettering.

Lug: What is precisely your role as an "editor", Ann Nocenti?

Ann Nocenti: To read, reread, correct... to verify that there're no contradiction from a script to another... to give my opinion on some drawings: the page layout, the angles, the close-up shots.. To sum it up: I supervise.. aim for perfection.

Lug: The "Editor", then, it's in a way the "directeur de publication" (literally: director of publishing)?

Ann Nocenti: That's it, I think.

Lug: What do you think of our books?

Ann Nocenti: I am very impressed by the quality of your covers!

Chris Dan and John (chorus): They're great!

Ann Nocenti: Yes, way more spare, way more artistic than ours! By the way, I'd love to meet your artists!

On those words, we lead our "New Fantastic Four" to our studio, where they look with interest at the pages of Cyrus Tota, Jean Mitton, and all the others. Their enthusiasm is so great that they almost forget that a Toque Blanche (white hat=a chef) is dressed for them his best table. And that's with a few Lug covers under their arm, that they leave for other wonders: Those of Lyonnaise gastronomy!

They will leave for London the next day, swearing to themselves to come back soon. Our country seduced them!

Translated from the article published in Special Strange #41 copyright: Editions Lug 1985.

A few notes from Stéphane:
-Lugdunum is the old name of Lyon, meaning something like "hill of the (celtic) god Lug". The editions Lug (Got it?), were based in there, 6 rue Emile Zola.
-In Special Strange where published every 3 months two issues of the X-Men, one of Marvel Team-Up and one of Marvel Two in one.
-The covers where most of the time drawn by Jean Frisano or his son Thomas.
-Jean, by the way is the french for John.

Farther along on their whirlwind tour of Europe the X-men team went to Barcelona to the Saló del Comic convention. Photos provided by Ferran Delgado!

Here's Chris looking dashing at sign-in.
And here's Chris signing.
I'm sure the team had some fun along with all of the hard work and it looks like a fantastic trip. Did I mention how jealous I was? lol.

But I did eventually get to go to Paris many years later thanks to the wonderful Dominique Boniface, Marvel's former international licensing guy who Jim mentioned yesterday. What a terrific guy! He got me a job designing a web site for a Paris shop and put me up for 10 days while I was working. It was truly a dream come true. I love Paris in the springtime! Now, if only someone has a job for me in Barcelona?

Some extras:

Here is an interesting article in French on The history of Lug 
An awkward Google translation of that article 

Here is an interview in French with Claude Vistel:
Google translation (such as it is)  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes


First This

Thank you very much for all the happy birthday wishes yesterday. I really appreciate it.

They’ll Always Have Paris

One Monday morning in early 1985, Chris Claremont came into my office in a foul mood. My door was literally always open. I hardly ever looked up when people came in because there was a steady parade of Marvel staffers and freelancers coming in all day to glom some free jellybeans from the gumball machine on my desk. If the visitor flopped down on my couch, I knew it was a casual, chatty visit or they were really tired. If he or she sat in one of the guest chairs in front of my desk, I knew it was business. If they stood in front of my desk radiating foul-mood vibes, like Chris, there was a problem.

Chris growled that he’d spent the weekend at a convention. I forget where. Mudville, Michiconsin or Dulltown, Ohiowa.

Dialogue represented more or less accurately:

“So, how’d that go?”

“The Avengers writer and artists got to go to a con in West Palm Beach!”

“Yep. So?”

“I write the X-Men! It’s the top book! How come I have to go to Sludge City and they get to go to West Palm Beach?!”

In those days, convention bookings worked like this: sometimes convention promoters would get in touch with creators directly. Creators were free, naturally, to go anywhere they were invited or wished to go on their own. But sometimes, requests for creator appearances at cons or stores came in through our sales promotion department, which was run by Steve Saffel. Steve would pass along any invitations to the creators who would accept or refuse as they wished.

We asked creators to let keep us apprised of con appearances they agreed to on their own, and however the appearance was arranged, Steve would try to help out with promotional support, giveaways, whatever, and coordinate things with the hosts.

Of course, there were also some appearances arranged by Marvel, like our annual expedition to San Diego. Or, for instance, that year, we were putting together an expedition to the American Booksellers Association (ABA) trade show in San Francisco. The ABA has a show every year around Memorial Day. In those days, it was held every other year in Washington, DC and in various other cities around the country in between. Chris, as it happened, was scheduled to be part of the Marvel contingent at the ABA that year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself….

I pointed out to Chris that Saffel had merely passed along the invitation to the con in Yuckburg and Chris had accepted. Just as the Avengers guys had accepted the offer from WPB. He agreed to go to Phlegmopolis. Nobody forced him. And didn’t the comics fans stuck in that gray and hopeless place deserve the sunshine of his personality to brighten their wretched lives?

That only made him grumpier. Cold…so cold.

“It’s still not fair.”

Finally, having the rest of my life to get on with, I’d heard enough.

“Okay, turkey, where do you want to go?”

“Paris,” he sneered, in a high dudgeon tone that would have humbled Magneto.

“Paris. You got it.”

“You can’t send me to Paris.”

“Stand aside, mortal,” said I in my best Thor impersonation.

I went upstairs to the international licensing department and spoke with Dominique Boniface, a great guy and wonderfully capable co-conspirator. I forget whether we called or Telexed (Telexed! That’s how long ago this was!) our French publishing licensees. I told Dom to offer them a promotional visit by the entire X-Men creative team…

if they’d do some PR and some extra publishing around the event.

A few minutes later I stopped by President Jim Galton’s office. I said, “Jim, I have a problem. Seems the French publishers would like to have the X-Men creators come to Paris and do a little promotional tour. They’ll get them on TV, get them lots of press and publish some special editions to tie in with their visit.  It would cost us about $11,000 to send them. But the guarantees alone on those specials add up to about $30,000.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

A few minutes later, I walked back into my office. Chris was still there, dark energies coruscating around him.

“Pack your bags, monsieur.”

Word spread about the miracle I’d worked. The V.P. of Promotions (“promotions” not directly related to the comics—things like character appearances by costumed actors) came to me in high dudgeon rivaling Claremont’s.

“How do you get away with these things?! I can’t get Galton to part with a dime for anything!”

Very simple. Find a way to make whatever you want to do self-liquidating or, better, turn a small profit, and Galton will approve whatever mad scheme you propose. Nyah, nyah.


Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes

The tour actually took place that May. We sent the whole X-Men crew: Editor Ann Nocenti, penciler John Romita, Jr., inker Dan Green, colorist Glynis Oliver (not sure if Glynis actually went, I know we offered), Chris the Complainer, and, I think, letterer Tom Orzechowski. We did send you, didn’t we Orz? If not, I apologize. Letterers are so under-appreciated. If I didn’t, I would’a if I could’a.

The tour went well, by all accounts.
Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr. 
There was one unfortunate incident, however. Apparently, the dashing John Romita, Jr., international heart-throb, didn’t understand the distinction between “Madame” and "Mademoiselle.” He’ll have to tell you that story. I’m not goin’ there.

But no shots were fired and everyone survived.

Shortly after the the X-team arrived in Paris, the angry phone calls started. First it was the Spanish publisher. How dare you send the X-People to France and not Spain?!

Then it was our London office. How dare you…etc.?!

Other countries attacked me, too, but there was only so much time.

So, the tour was extended to Barcelona, London and points thereabout.
John Romita, Jr. and Dan Green
Chris was due at the ABA, so the tour had to end as Memorial Day weekend was starting. Everybody returned home except Chris, who flew to San Francisco to hook up with the Marvel ABA contingent.

My super-secretary, Lynn Cohen was there in SF, coordinating things and as part of the man-the-booth staff. Steve Saffel was there. Two or three others of the comics and sales department staff were there. I asked Lynn to organize a dinner for us the evening we arrived, the day before the show started.

As we were gathering in the lobby of the hotel, the Mark, Chris came limping in, fresh off the plane from London. He was exhausted, lagged, and far more wretched than the wretchiest wretch in Mudville. Somehow, summoning all his remaining strength, with the last shreds of his heroic stamina, he said, “You guys going to dinner? Can I come?”

So we all went to an excellent steakhouse in the neighborhood.

It was great.

Our server was a beautiful, wonderful young woman named Julia. It was her birthday and she had laryngitis. She was communicating with us using gestures and mouthing words, though no sound came out. Steve Saffel, who is apparently very good at both charades and lip-reading translated for the rest of us. Especially me, because I am clueless.

I got to know Julia a little on a subsequent trip to San Francisco, but I’m not telling you that story. I’m not goin’ there.

No shots were fired and everyone survived.

Okay, okay, she showed me around town, took me to spots tourists don’t usually find, we walked to the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge….  Wonderful, lovely person, generous with her time. It was fun. At least she was a Mademoiselle. John? Are you paying attention?

So….

About Chris going face down in his mashed potatoes. I made that up. It’s a lie. But he almost did. Missed it by thaaat much! He was so wiped from his journeys that he absolutely, positively did fall asleep at the table!

Ask Lynn. Ask Saffel. Don’t ask Chris, he’ll probably deny everything.


NEXT:  More Items of Interest

Monday, September 26, 2011

Disney Adventures


An Apology

The notes and various artifacts that should accompany this post are in one of the boxes yet to be liberated from the storage space and sorted. I think the story is worth telling anyway. I’ll provide some exhibits later, as soon as I can.

A Real Mickey Mouse Operation

Sometime in late 1988 I got a call from a man named Michael Lynton who said he worked for the Walt Disney Company and was interested in possibly hiring me as a consultant.

1988 had been a lean year. I’d spent most of it in an attempt to buy the Marvel Entertainment Group from New World Entertainment, and that is an epic tale for later. My team, the Marvel Acquisition Partners, along with financial adviser/debt provider Chase N.A. and equity partner Shenkman Capital actually won the auction and for one glorious week, we thought we owned Marvel. But, Ronald O. Perelman, who was an insider at New World, managed to snake it out from under us. All that effort, all that time for naught.

There is an unbelievable amount of work involved in attempting such an acquisition. During the many months our attempt took I wasn’t able to fit in much paying work. Didn’t matter. Nobody was offering me work in those days anyway. I think I made $18,000 that year.

I needed a gig.

I met Michael Lynton for lunch somewhere near the Disney offices, which were just off of Park Avenue in the fifties. It was an interview, more or less.

Lynton was the head of marketing for Disney’s consumer products division (the other two being the film and parks divisions). I don’t recall his exact title, but he was a major cheese in the House of the Mouse.

Turned out that Lynton, too, had been interested in acquiring Marvel. He’d tried to talk Disney’s upper management into it, and when that proved to be a no-go, he’d considered making an attempt on his own.

Lynton’s Plan B was starting a comic book publishing division at Disney. Disney Comics were being published under license by Gladstone Publishing at that time. Lynton meant to terminate their license and bring Disney’s comic book publishing in-house. My job would be to help create Disney’s in-house comic book company.

I guess I aced the interview. Lynton arranged for me to fly out to L.A. and meet again with him and his boss, Steve McBeth. That proved to be another interview, and I guess I aced that one, too. They hired me as a consultant, 20 hours a week for a flat, monthly rate. The money wasn’t huge, but enough to keep me alive, reasonably comfortably. McBeth said flat out that Disney generally didn’t pay top dollar because they didn’t have to, being Disney. People were willing to accept less just to have Disney on their resume.

He was right, it proved to be a good thing. For years afterwards, every time I ever had to show a resume, the first thing that people noticed was Disney. “You worked for Disney? Impressive.”  

For the next ten months or so, I worked with Lynton to develop the business plan, publishing plan, staffing plan and build the foundations. While I was at it, Lynton asked me to do some development work on a few animated series. More about all that later.

Early on, apparently impressed by my efforts, Lynton offered me the job of Publisher and Editor in Chief of Disney Comics. An executive position. For real money. With benefits and perks.

Yahoo!

He told me I’d have to remain a freelance consultant until we were closer to the launch, however. But, in the meantime, I’d be laying the groundwork for my job-to-come. Sure, fine.

At that time, the Dick Tracy movie was in production. Lynton wanted to do a publishing program around the movie (in addition to the novelization, with which I wasn’t involved) and asked me for a proposal.

I read the screenplay. It started with crime already rampant in the city and Tracy already the mobsters’ number one enemy.

I proposed that we do three graphic novels: a prequel, the adaptation and one showing the continuing adventures of Tracy.

The prequel was intended to establish the rise of the mobsters’ reign of terror and the city’s growing despair; also Tracy’s rise to prominence, his first victories over the mobsters and why the criminals all hated and feared him. As I recall, the plot ended with the police commissioner lamenting the city’s plight, the corruption rife in the force, and saying something like, “If only there was one man I could trust!” Cue Dick Tracy….

I know I still have that plot. I’ll post it when I dig it out.

Dick Tracy was a very big deal at Disney. I wonder if Snow White got the scrutiny my Tracy prequel story did. Before I wrote the final plot, I was asked to pitch it from my beat outline not only to Lynton, but to Steve McBeth.

McBeth is scary-smart, as is Lynton. McBeth, however, is one of those rare people who always speaks in precise, complete sentences, all perfectly composed. That freaks me out.

So, I pitched my plot. Those of you who have read the stuff I’ve posted here know I’m pretty thoughtful and thorough when it comes to the nuts and bolts of stories. Some people like them, some don’t, but I think most people would agree that they’re carefully wrought. Anyway, I thought my Tracy prequel was pretty tight and solid.

McBeth pointed out several of flaws and holes. Things I overlooked.  

Freaked me out.

Well, that motivated me. I apologized and swore the thing would be bulletproof when I wrote the first complete draft.

As it turned out there was no time for another review of the plot before it had to be presented. Presented to whom, you might wonder. I wish I could give you the list of names. Maybe, if I find my notes….

Anyway, it was a big conference room full of people. The guy, whose name I forget, who was the head cheese of the consumer products division, one step down from Eisner, was there. Other big shot execs.  Other consultants, called in to evaluate the work of the consultant.  Jeez, Louise…!

But I was loaded for bear. You betcha I had buttoned that thing up tighter than Uncle Scrooge’s Money Bin. Every detail, as Mark Twain might say, “…fined down to exactly the right shade….”  

There were no criticisms. A question or two and applause. Nailed it.

My moment of triumph.

Then it all went to hell.

Throughout the ten months or more I worked as a consultant, whenever I had to be in L.A. at the Burbank offices and studios for a meeting, Lynton’s secretary would book me into a great hotel, the Hilton in Universal City, I think. She’d send my airline tickets—always first class. She’d reserve a luxury car for me.

Disney, apparently, wasn’t cheap about the T&E.

It was getting near to launch time. On the same visit to L.A. when I’d made the plot pitch to the Devil’s Jury, Lynton talked to me about coming on staff as publisher and EIC “in a few weeks.”

I was told that a Big Meeting had been scheduled with another select committee of Disney Cheeses to give a final review to the plan to launch the new publishing division. At this Big Meeting, I would be introduced as the person who was going to run the division.

Lynton’s secretary called me about two weeks before the Big Meeting and said that Lynton would like to meet with me at the Disney offices in New York prior to the Big Meeting in L.A. Sure.

Lynton did a lot of traveling around the world. He had more demands on his time than you can believe. His secretary called me several times to reschedule the NY meeting. It just didn’t work out. Lynton just couldn’t manage to fit in a trip to New York and a meeting with me.

Then my airline tickets, hotel information and car reservation for the big-meeting trip to L.A. arrived.

They were coach class tickets. I was booked into a motel. It was an economy car. Hmm.

So, I went to L.A., slept at the motel and went in the little, tiny car to Burbank the next morning. I walked into the meeting room a few minutes early—I’m almost always early. Many people were already there. Disney meetings start on time. 

A nice-looking guy I didn’t recognize walked up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Randy Achee. I’m the publisher of Disney Comics.”

Oh.

“Nice to meet you,” I said. “Jim Shooter. Consultant.”

I saw Lynton entering and looking more than a little apprehensive.

The meeting started. The big shots grilled Lynton a little, but especially Achee.

Achee’s background was in controlled circulation magazines. Controlled circulation magazines are magazines that are provided free to a select consumer base—dentists, for instance. They make money by selling ad space to people who want to sell equipment, supplies, etc. to dentists.

I think he’d been a publisher of one or more controlled circ mags, but he didn’t know anything about comics publishing. He wasn’t conversant with the creative process, the art production process, the print production process, distribution, the marketing or anything else to do with comics. He didn’t even know commercial, for-sale-to-the-public magazines and he sure didn’t know comics. Maybe he could have walked in and taken charge of Contemporary Oral Hygiene with no problems, but comics? Nah.

So, I did my job. I was a consultant.

I fed Randy his lines and picked up the slack.

“Excuse me, sir, Randy asked me to look into selective binding. Randy, do you want me to tell them what I came up with, or…?  Okay, sure. These are the figures R.R. Donnelley quoted….”

Covered his ass.

“Well, Randy’s referring to direct marketing in the more common sense, direct mail, but I think what you’re asking is about the comics shop distribution, right? I’ve got the numbers you asked me for right here, Randy. I should have given them to you earlier. Sorry.

Talked him up.

“Randy brings a whole new perspective to comics publishing. I think the Disney Adventures project we’ve been developing will benefit from his insights.”

Simulated dialogue, but trust me, something like that. Etc.

The cheeses bought it. Everybody was happy. Well, almost everybody.

As we were filing out, Lynton shook my hand and thanked me profusely. He said he’d be in New York next week and would really like to meet. Sure. I’m a consultant. I’m on the clock. 

Randy asked me if I was free for dinner. Sure. I’m a consultant. I’m on the clock.

So, Randy took me out to dinner that evening. He wanted to thank me, he said, for leaping into the breach and helping him. No problem, said I. I’m a consultant, etc. It’s my job.

He said, words to the effect, “I’d heard you were a real dick, but you seem all right.”

So, the next morning I drove my little Yugo or whatever from the motel back to LAX, flew home and went back to work on my other project, raising money for a new company. I didn’t have a name for “Comics Newco” then, but it eventually became VALIANT.

The next week, I met with Michael Lynton in his office in New York.

Lynton apologized for my being blindsided at the Big Meeting. He said that he was going to hire me as publisher, but when he did his due diligence and contacted several big name creators in the comic book business to get a reference, they told him I was a monster. That if I were put in charge of Disney Comics that no creator worth spit would ever work for the company. I think you can guess as well as I can who he spoke with.

Lynton said that during the time we’d worked together, he’d found me to be the smartest, most creative, most reasonable, easiest-to-get-along-with person he’d ever dealt with.

Maybe the people who condemned me were wrong, he said, or maybe I’d changed. Whatever. Disney couldn’t afford to take a chance.

I offered no argument—nothing I said would have done any good at that point—but I did say, words to the effect, “Michael, someday, somewhere, I’ll be sitting behind a desk hiring creators again and the line will go out the door and all the way to the street.”

I also told him that I was happy to remain a consultant for the nonce. I had to eat after all.

Later, Lynton called me to ask me my opinion of a guy they were considering for the Editor in Chief position, Len Wein. Did I know him?

Yep. I gave Len a very positive reference, with the caveat that he might not be good at showing up on time for meetings or anything else, which seemed to be of great importance at Disney. Lynton hired Len, largely on the strength of my recommendation, said Lynton.  

On one of my last trips to the Disney offices in L.A., Lynton wanted to talk about artists for the Dick Tracy prequel. He told me what he had in mind regarding payment—a ridiculously small rate—and asked if I thought Howard Chaykin would be a good candidate. I told him that Howard would never accept that rate—I didn’t use the words “chump change” but I thought them.

While I was in his office, Lynton called Chaykin and asked him about illustrating Tracy.

The end of the conversation I could hear, Lynton’s words, went something like this:

“But…

Howard, I….

“I didn’t mean to… 

“Yes, but….”

Then Lynton pulled the phone away from his ear, stared at it and said, “He hung up on me. He cursed me out and then he hung up on me.”

No kiddin’?

Then Lynton said, “I’m going to call him back!”

Sigh.

The net result was that, while Chaykin had no interest whatsoever in the project, he talked Lynton into hiring John Francis Moore to write the script. I didn’t think he was up to it, but whatever. I was a lame duck consultant on my way out. Who cared what I thought?

After I had resigned as a consultant to work full time on developing VALIANT, periodically Lynton would call me and ask me questions. After Moore had finished the script for the Tracy prequel, and after it was already largely drawn by Kyle Baker, Lynton started having cold feet about the way it was going and asked me if, as a favor, I’d look over the script and give him my opinion.

I did.

Moore had obviously tossed the plot I’d written out the window, the plot that had been so carefully vetted and approved by Lynton, McBeth and the Exalted Committee, and written whatever he wanted.

Sorry, Moore, but it wasn’t good. Way too many tiny panels, gratuitous sex and violence, inappropriate language…. Bad. I told Lynton so, but I think it was too late to do anything about the mess.

Of course, Kyle made it look better than it deserved.

Later, when Disney Comics was spectacularly failing and my little, cruelly undercapitalized start-up, VALIANT was just beginning to take off, Michael Lynton called me again. He said that after being as immersed in the comic book business for a while, he’d come to realize that my critics were the problem, not me. He said, “If you ever start another company, I’d like to invest in it and I would like to be on the board of directors.”

Michael Lynton was an investor in Enlightened Entertainment Partners, publishers of DEFIANT, and served on the board.

I’m sorry I failed him and everyone else. I gave it my best.


WEDNESDAY:  Chris Claremont Face Down in His Mashed Potatoes

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Letter Column Rant and A Few Observations

Tom commented on the post "Reminiscing About Jack Kirby"
I think that in the 70's, people were so used to having Jack around that they took him for granted. I've read the letters pages in some of his 70's Marvel titles like Cap, Eternals and Black Panther and he definitely gets a lot of negative feedback. It seems to me like a case of too much of a good thing. These guys had grown up on his stuff and his style at Marvel was kind of omnipresent, and if it wasn't him drawing a book in a lot of cases it was someone drawing just like him, and then in the 70's you had guys like Starlin and Barry Smith which for the fans were a new style and a kind of a breath of fresh air, and they didn't want to go back. They were like teens who've gotten do drive and have some freedom for the first time, and now they don't want to go to grandma's house every sunday with the rest of the family.
 I didn't get into Kirby until the early 90's when I was in my early 20's. I ate up his 70's stuff. The time was right for me to discover and fall in love with it. I understand how the kids didn't want it at the time, but I wish they hadn't been so mean about it. Anyway, I see every Kirby issue as gold.

ANSWER:

Jack's titles got plenty of positive mail, too, especially early on, but because the people putting together the lettercolumns then used a lot of negative letters, that had the effect of generating more negative letters. In those days, it was a very cool thing to see your letter in print. Show the readers that negative letters are likely to get printed and you'd get lots of them. 

I cannot imagine what the people putting the letter columns together were thinking. Were they trying to be "fair and balanced," and show that some people were disappointed with what Jack was doing? Was it that they, themselves, were disappointed with what Jack was doing and weighted the lettercols to express their POV? Putting together a negative lettercol is stupid, amateurish and/or malicious.

Lettercols in commercial, entertainment publications are PROMOTIONAL INSTRUMENTS (and entertaining, if done right). Like it, don't like it, or whatever. If you're a professional with the brains God gave a goat, you know this and you act accordingly. This isn't journalism.

Ideally, you select letters positive letters, especially thoughtful, thought-provoking letters, including some, OCCASIONALLY that express thoughtful criticism along with positive comments. A critical letter that is clearly biased or dumb enough to incite the readers to rebut it, if only in their own minds, works too. Publishing 101.

Stan told me that when John Romita replaced Steve Ditko on Spider-Man, the mail was overwhelmingly negative. Stan ran only the rave letters, almost without exception. Soon, the mail became overwhelmingly positive. And, P.S., people got used to John's style and sincerely started grooving on it. This happened, in part, because the lettercols promoted the new look. That helped to start a movement.

P.S. That wouldn't have worked if John's work wasn't really good. Trying to promote in a lettercol something that's really lousy usually is a non-starter.

A possibly interesting fact: though Jack's books did not sell well on the newsstands, because, I think, to casual readers they seeemed old-fashioned and un-hip, they sold gangbusters in the nascent direct market, as well or better than the X-Men, and far more than all other titles. I remember noticing that a couple of Jack's books were selling upwards of 30,000 copies -- just about enough to break even all direct -- at a time when Spider-Man, the Avengers, etc., were selling closer to 10,000 direct. That observation was part of the genesis of the first major all-direct book, Dazzler #1. So, it wasn't that Jack's books were universally hated. The more comics-sophisticated/collector direct market patrons liked the stuff -- enough of them, anyway. I wonder how many copies direct Jack's books would have sold when the direct market had developed a little more and X-Men was selling several hundred thousand direct each month.

These days, lettercols have largely been obviated by e-communication. The readership community is far more aware of overall trends and opinions. Stan's lettercols promoting the new look on Spider-Man would have made not a dent, because everyone would be talking about it online and the lettercol couldn't influence opinion at all.


A Few Observations

The discussions that follow my posts are better than my posts.

I read Waid’s Daredevil last night. Unsurprisingly brilliant. I expected as much. How does he get such wonderful art?

This just in: Janet Claire Jackson continues to deny that she is an alien vegetable clone grown in a vat on the planet Vegetron who is here on Earth to confuse us to death by posing as Penelope Muddlepud.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three Comic Book Weddings, or Holy Matrimony! – Part 2


Ménàge à Trois 

Back in 1976 for eight months or so Dave Cockrum and I shared a big, three bedroom apartment in Bellerose, Queens, till I eventually found a nice place of my own in Queens Village. Both of us had worked on the Legion of Super-Heroes, of course. In fact, I narrowly missed having Dave draw some of my stories when in the mid-1970’s when I started writing the Legion again for a while, shortly after he left the series.

Though I was working on staff at Marvel, my boss, Marv Wolfman, graciously allowed me to finish the three or four Legion scripts assigned to me by editor Murray Boltinoff before I took the job at Marvel. Dave loved the Legion characters and was very interested to hear about the stories I was working on and kibbitz a little. Roger Stern, who also lived in Queens and hung out with Dave and me once in a while, chipped in on the plots, too. It was fun. Like a barn raising.

Anyway, Dave and I talked a lot about the characters and series, what I’d done with it, what he’d done. He was proud of the fact that he’d gotten away with giving the Legionnaires individual physiotypes rather than the cookie cutter bodies they’d always had before. He had to be subtle about it. DC in general and Murray in particular did not look kindly upon straying from the herd.

Dave being Dave, he had his own funny/clever nicknames for the Legionnaires. The only one I can remember off the top of my head is the one he came up with for Shrinking Violet: “Itty-Bitty Pretty One.”

At some point, he showed me a two-page spread he’d drawn in issue #200 of Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes. Somehow I hadn’t seen that issue before.
The wedding of Luornu Durgo/Duo Damsel and Chuck Taine/Bouncing Boy. Let’s see, she can split into two of herself so…ménàge à trois?

Or had they lost their powers at that point? I forget. DD had her powers when I used her ten issues later. I think. It was a long time ago….

Dave was very proud of that spread. Dave being Dave, he drew the Martian Manhunter in the background, since the wedding took place on Mars. I love the body language, the acting…great stuff.  

I don’t remember much about the story, but by virtue of that spread alone the wedding of Luornu Durgo (times two or not) and Chuck Taine is memorable.


Dream Wedding
About 30 years later, in 2007, I went back to the future and wrote the Legion of Super-Heroes again for a while. That proved to be one of the most frustrating and disappointing professional experiences I’ve ever had, and this is me, remember, so that’s goin’ some. Nonetheless, I think I wrote some good scripts.

The “regular” penciler, a talented young man, had trouble making the schedule. The editor asked me to come up with a two fill-in stories that were in continuity, at least in a token way. Okay….

Mark Waid, the previous writer (aside from some fill-ins) had left me a little gift, accidentally, I think. In one issue of his run, he had Dream Girl, whose prophesies are infallible, predict that she and Brainiac 5 would get married. Later, he killed off Dream Girl pretty convincingly.

So…hmm.

I pitched an idea to the editor, who liked it. I wrote out a plot of sorts, mostly for my own purposes, to get the story straight in my head. Below is that plot and a brief description of the second fill-in, part two of the story. Please keep in mind that this isn’t a plot in the sense of a Marvel plot. It was NOT intended to be given an artist to draw. It was for my use and to get across to the editor what I was up to ONLY. No one else saw it.


_________________________

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

ISSUE #47
(In-continuity Fill-in)

Dream Wedding
Part 1

“Blind Love”


Plot for 22 pages by 
Jim Shooter

Jim Shooter
Ridgefield Park, NJ  07660



Michael Marts
Editor

DC COMICS


February 10, 2008
“Dream Wedding”
Detachable, Two-Part Fill-in 
for the “ONE EVIL” Saga


ISSUE #47

Part 1:  “Blind Love”

PLOT:

In the LAB COMPLEX, BRAINIAC 5 works on the replica Alien Destroyer DATA RIPPER he has constructed using info acquired by Chameleon. We establish his brilliance, intellect and scientific “cool.” DREAM GIRL looks on, idly amusing herself with some interesting gizmo—say, a snow globe in which it really snows, thanks to B-5’s miniaturization techniques. Or something.

Dream Girl says she’s getting one of her glimpses of the future. No, there’s no news about the ADs—which is probably a good thing—but…Brainiac 5 is going to be traveling somewhere very soon. It looks like he’s traveling into the past, into an ancient time.  

Not likely.  Time travel isn’t feasible—yet—says B-5.

Well, she’s got another one. She sees them making love. Real…physical…and ooh-la-la intense.  

B-5 is very immersed in his work. “Uh-huh,” he says…. 

DG complains that B-5 is always working, even when he’s….

Suddenly, the Data Ripper starts to grow a new AD body to go with itself! B-5 has replicated the Data Ripper too perfectly, and has triggered a secret program built into the thing that re-grows the monstrous warrior that once wielded it!

The AD attacks! B-5’s force-shield protects him. The AD turns on DG!

Before B-5 can do anything, the AD is on DG, apparently destroying her. B-5 vaporizes the AD using something instantly jury-rigged—say, for instance, he opens a wormhole portal into the heart of a star and allows a single, concentrated burst of energy to disintegrate the thing. Or something.

B-5 is shattered! DG is no more!

Or is she? Suddenly DG, unharmed, is standing over the weeping, traumatized B-5. She helps him up. She’s fine. He’s puzzled.  She explains—this is a DREAM, my love. It’s all in your mind, literally.  Nothing can hurt me here…

…she gives him a hug, and adds…

…except you.

B-5 wakes up. He’s on his cot in the lab. The Data Ripper replica he’s working on is in view.

After ablutions, B-5 dresses. He puts a SMALL GADGET in his pocket. Then, he goes to the Bridge to check on the current status of things.  No major developments, though the situation is tense. The Intruder Planet remains, a troubling presence. A U.P. military fleet is deployed around the IP. The IP’s deadly shields remain up. Communications with its mysterious denizens continue, but little of substance emerges. “Peace, peace, peace,” they say in broken Interlac, and little else.  B-5’s speculation: they’re stalling, waiting for something…reinforcements? Every Legionnaire is at the HQ or nearby, on alert. Per Secretary of Diplomacy LaFong, the U.P. won’t let the Legion take any overt action, like sending in the Espionage Squad. LaFong believes that “negotiations” with the “Guest Planet” are the solution.  All the Legion can do is wait.

We establish the Legionnaires making the best of this somewhat tense downtime, playing Mini-Magno-Ball, working out, making out, whatever. Colossal Boy and Atom Girl are tentatively developing a relationship. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are still on the outs.  

Princess Projectra is with Phantom Girl. For the hundredth time, PP is demanding that PG tell her the 20th Century comic book story of the original BRAINIAC. (PP can’t read it for herself, of course, because it’s written in ancient English, not Interlac. PG and several other Legionnaires have mastered ancient English, by the way. Wish I could.) PP wants PG to change the ending, to have Brainiac’s quest to repopulate his world and restore his kingdom succeed. PG is creeped out by that a bit, and beginning to be annoyed by PP’s pushiness. We establish PP’s situation—i.e., Orando has been destroyed, and she is enduring “reduced circumstances.” We also establish PG’s good-heartedness and long but not endless patience. 

On the Bridge, Brainiac 5 notices the time, says he has an “appointment” and leaves.

PP sees B-5 pass by. At this point, PP empathetic senses have become so heightened that she can read feelings and emotions from across the room. She feels a flicker of suspicion of her cross B-5’s back brain. Just a flicker. (She has been acting strangely.) But, he’s preoccupied with other things—the ADs and…a matter of the heart?

The subject of B-5’s dreams or visions of DG comes up between PP and PG. PP ponders for a moment, then excuses herself.

PP goes to her dorm apartment. There are a number of small “housewarming” gifts there, mostly from Legionnaires. One, however, an Orandoan teddy bear-sort-of, came from a “fan.” PP opens a hidden compartment in the bear and removes a small package wrapped in a thin foil of what I’ll call MAGIC METAL for now. Magic Metal is impenetrable to any kind of transmitted signal or scan. It’s also undetectable—great for smuggling things past security systems—like the HQ’s. Inside, is a LEGION FLIGHT RING—but not a real one. It’s one of the stripped down, “authentic” licensed Flight Rings marketed by Galacticorp. PP creates an ILLUSION of herself sitting in the solarium, reading a holo-book.  The illusion can easily be seen from the outside and from many windows of the HQ.  She leaves her REAL flight ring beside her illusionary self, puts on the licensed Flight Ring and slips out a window and flies away. Now, not only does she appear to be in her apartment, but the DUTY ROSTER will confirm it, because her Flight Ring is there.

(NOTE: It’s not that licensed Flight Rings aren’t allowed in the HQ or anything—it’s just that PP doesn’t want anyone to know she has one, thereby protecting her alibi.)

Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 travels (transmatters?) to New Orleans, and we get a look at the Big Easy of the future. B-5 discreetly disguises himself using the Small Gadget he put in his pocket, earlier, a MORPHER. He also checks an ad in the holo-Yellow Pages, the equivalent of an eighth-of-a-page (cheap) ad in the 2008 Yellow Pages. It says, among other things, “The Marvelous MEANDER, New Orleans’ #1 Spiritual Adviser.”

In the preserved, ancient French Quarter—what DG foresaw that appeared to be the “past”—B-5 arrives at a run-down building.  Next door is a much better-preserved, grander building with lit-up, ostentatious signs advertising THE AMAZING AMBROSE, GREATEST SPIRITUALIST IN THE GALAXY. The small, shabby, peeling sign on B-5’s destination says “MEANDER, BEST SPIRITUALIST ON THE BLOCK.”  B-5 shrugs and goes to see MEANDER, who’s a Tarot Card Reader, Spiritual Adviser, Life/Death/Afterlife Coach, Astrologer, Wiccan Hedgewitch, Aura Expert, Dream Interpreter, Karma Doctor, Yoga Teacher, Meditation Therapist, Reincarnation Analyst, Feng Shui Designer, Reiki Healer and Sheet Metal Repair Specialist. Her motto: “Enlightenment and Spot Welding.”

Meander is young, pretty, light brown-skinned and dark-haired. She has “thousand-year-old-eyes” that one would swear had seen the pyramids rise—piercing eyes of unusual color.

Brainiac 5 enters. Meander is futuristically spot welding something—maybe the fender of a 1956 Thunderbird. Meander also sells AMWAY.

It seems that on this oh-so-scientific planet, there’s not much call for spiritualists—and the Amazing Ambrose gets most of the traffic. Meander has to make a living somehow. She says she’d do better in the outer rim somewhere, maybe on Rimbor. Even Winath…Sirenia…or Doopa. And it’s expensive here in the French Quarter. The only reason she stays is that the crumbling building has been in her family for a looooong time. Besides, nobody would come to see a spiritualist who lived in one of those futuristic spires or beehives.

Gotta make a living.

Brainiac 5 is way put off, but at Meander’s insistence, goes through with his appointment. Payment up front.

Brainiac 5: “I’ve been seeing this girl….”

Meander: “How long has she been dead?”

Brainiac 5 is taken aback. Meander correctly identifies him, first by what kind of person he is—intellectual, analytical, empirical, scientific, skeptical—then…

M: So, your name is…wait a minute…Brainiac 5.

B-5: How did you know that?

M: Because the girl you’ve been seeing just whispered it in my ear.

B-5: Preposterous! She’s dead.

M: She’s here.

B-5: Then why don’t I see her?

M: You’re awake. And not in touch with reality, like me.

B-5: No one is more in touch with reality than me!

M: Oh, sure, this level. What about the other four?

B-5: Other four? If you’re talking about the primary dimensions, there are ten of them.

M: Yes, I know about those. Mathematical masturbation, if you ask me. I’m talking about the five major planes of existence…

M: …though some say there are seven…or 32…or….

B-5: This is absurd!

M: Am I right? Are you Brainiac 5?

Brainiac 5 sheds his disguise. “You’re good.”

M: “You should have seen my grandma.”

Brainiac 5 argues with Meander. He doesn’t know how she works her scam, but “spiritualism” is bunk. He shouldn’t have come here. This is ridiculous.

Meander has the same sort of disdain for Brainiac 5’s science as he has for her mysticism.  “Ingenious fool! You speak with a spirit every night!”

Brainiac 5 hesitates. He starts to ask Meander something. She cuts him off.

M: That’ll be another 50 creds for the next ten minutes, please.

B-5: Nonsense.  You haven’t told me anything.

M: You haven’t asked anything. Pay up or get out.

B-5 pays.

M: Right.  So…what do you want from me?

B-5: I’ve been having these lucid dreams…this girl keeps appearing in them…

Meander looks over her shoulder and asks, apparently of thin air: “What’s your name, hon? Nura Nal?

“I see why they call you Dream Girl.  Look at you, all hottie-hot…! That face, and that figure…! Yes, I know, the name comes from your having prescient dreams. Every under-ager in the galaxy has heard about the Legionnaires.”

Meander turns back to Brainiac 5. “She’s a dreamboat! A sweetie! So what’s the problem? What do you want?”

B-5: I…I….

M: Okay, let me tell you. You wanted me to be a flimflam. You wanted to “expose me” with your keen scientific eye. You wanted it all to be bogus. So, smart guy, what do you think is going on?

B-5: I…think that my subconscious mind calculates probabilities, comes up with predictions and cloaks them in the guise of dreams featuring Dream Girl. Or, outside, rationally credible forces have beguiled my mind. Or…or….

M:  So, you came here hoping to get some justification for your stupid hypotheses/explanations by debunking the truth! Ah, what a comfortable reaffirmation of your worldview, your “sanity” that would be.

B-5: This whole thing CANNOT be real.

M: Wrong, zork-head. Dream on. So to speak.

M: You should have gone to my neighbor, the Amazing Ambrose. He is a fraud. That’ll be another 50 creds, please.

B-5 ponders. Finally, he says, “I want to know what to do.”

M: Do you love her? I know the answer. Do you?

B-5: Yes.

M: How sweet. Does she turn you on?

B-5 sputters. Well, she’s…startlingly beautiful. And, let’s face it, he’s male and humanoid. Of course, he…has the hots for her.

M: Gotta be careful with those id-urges. Some of them can be nasty, wicked and horrible—no matter how nice a person you are consciously. They can be dangerous to her. On the Spirit Plane, nothing can harm her, but by entering your mind, she makes herself vulnerable to…your dark side. Gotta keep that contained.

B-5 isn’t worried. His mind is disciplined.

Meander puts out another of her many shingles: “WEDDING PLANNER.”

M: So…ask her to marry you.

B-5: But…she’s dead, and…!

Meander puts away the Wedding Planner shingle and replaces it with a “RELATIONSHIP ADVISER” shingle. “You’re right. You two need to get to know each other better first. You need to go out on a date.”

B-5: How? Dream up some dinner and candlelight?

M: There is a way…but it costs extra—a LOT extra.

Cut to Princess Projectra arriving at the opulent home of one of her few remaining subjects.  She is welcomed in by the owner, BARON BIEHLER, who bows. Other Orandoans present similarly honor their Princess. Among them is the SHAMAN, established in the previous issue. Also there is the THAUMATURGE-ALCHEMIST who created the Magic Metal. There is mention made of a NEW PALACE for the Princess, currently being prepared.

PP sits in council with her devoted subjects. PP and all present hold the U.P. and the Legion responsible for the destruction of Orando. They want retribution and justice. PP’s position as a Legionnaire may come in handy as their plans evolve.

PP is worried that B-5 is suspicious that she’s up to something. He alone is the one she fears, not only because his mighty intellect could, conceivably, suss out any plans she might make—but also, because he is visited nightly by Dream Girl’s spirit. DG still, in post-life existence, is prescient. She might intuit, predict and warn B-5 of any schemes PP and her subjects concoct.

Orandoans are a very mystic, spiritual, “New Age” sort of people. This is not unfamiliar territory. The Shaman says that, first, this “Dream Girl” must be gotten rid of—utterly destroyed, banished to higher or lower planes, or otherwise neutralized. But how? PP could influence Brainiac 5’s id and perhaps turn it against DG, but that would be hard to do without such a mighty, well-ordered and supremely controlled mind sensing interference. On top of that, Dream Girl is probably watching over B-5 constantly. It’s not like spirits have to sleep. Slipping past her vigilance wouldn’t be easy.

Princess Projectra offers that she sensed some…romantic complications troubling B-5. She wonders whether or not this might present opportunity. The Shaman thinks it might. Love blinds one on so many levels. They’ll start keeping close watch on B-5.

Using a crystal ball, the powers of the Shaman and Princess Projectra’s vast new powers, the Orandoans begin to spy on B-5.

Brainiac 5 is arriving home at the HQ carrying a big bag of Amway products….

Later, Phantom Girl zeezees Princess Projectra’s Flight Ring.  No response.  PG can tell PP’s in her solarium…but the sun has long since set…and there no lights on in the solarium or anywhere in her apartment. PG had wished to apologize for being annoyed about PP wanting the Brainiac story told again, but now she’s worried.  Is PP okay?

PG “phantoms” into PP’s solarium. PP seems to be ignoring her. PG tries to tap PP on the shoulder, but her hand goes right through the illusory PP. What?! What’s up with that, PG wonders. 

Later, PG is discreetly watching as PP returns (through a solarium window). PG sees PP dispel the illusion and put her REAL Flight Ring back on.

Phantom Girl can’t figure out what that all means, but she resolves to find out.

The next evening, Brainiac 5 primps and preens. He puts on his best, dressiest clothes. He’s as nervous as a teen-ager going on his first date, which come to think of it, isn’t far from the truth.

Brainiac 5 uses the Morpher to make himself appear to be wearing his usual uniform until he’s safely out of the HQ.

Phantom Girl tries to get B-5’s attention, but he’s in a hurry. He’s late. Lightning Lad is too busy. Phantom Girl ends up telling her tale to Saturn Girl. Saturn Girl agrees that PP has been acting funny lately. They’ll keep an eye on her and bring it up to B-5 later. PG urges SG to bring it up to LLad right away—he’d make time to talk to her. No, SG isn’t ready to face him yet.

B-5 Morphs back to his fancy clothes after he is out of sight of the HQ. He meets Meander (who has traveled to Metropolis) on a beautiful promenade in the heart of Metropolis’s Entertainment District, a part of the city rife with bistros, restaurants, nightclubs, shops and futuristic entertainments of all types. This area was first depicted in issue #41, but not well.

The view here is spectacular. There are many establishments on terraces, along the pedestrian boulevards, even floating in mid air. There are waterfalls, gardens, sculptures…it’s beautiful.

Meander is dressed to the nines. These aren’t clothes I would choose, she says, tugging at her daring décolletage. She picked them. She’s here, and I’m letting her take it from this point on.

Meander allows Dream Girl to possess her.

No spirit can wear a sheathe of flesh again without the full cooperation of a living person with the necessary skills—except in rare cases. (Certain empowered spirits, like Deadman, can force a possession…..)

Brainiac 5 is uncomfortable at first. Though she speaks with Dream Girl’s voice, he can’t get past the fact that it’s Meander’s body he’s escorting.

Back at the HQ, Princess Projectra is, once more, demanding that Phantom Girl tell her “the story” again. PG plays along. Saturn Girl is discreetly observing. She won’t invade PP’s mind—she’s sworn not to do that to other Legionnaires—but she can see that this chick, PP, is not quite right.

PP suddenly looks distracted. (She’s receiving a message mystically transmitted by the Shaman, who’s keeping tabs on B-5, that “opportunity” is “presenting itself.”) PP hastens away. SG and PG are worried, puzzled.

PP sneaks out again, tracks down B-5 and discreetly observes.

As the date progresses, Brainiac 5 gets used to the idea that this is Dream Girl—inside, at least. After dinner in an elegant place, there’s a futuristic carriage ride or something similarly romantic. In a romantic setting, they kiss.

Princess Projectra is nearby, watching from a hidden vantage point. Now is her moment! B-5 is as distracted as one could hope for. Dream Girl can’t be watching over B-5 from within, because she’s possessing Meander.

PP invades B-5’s id! (And we go in with her!) In the dark recesses of B-5’s lizard brain, she finds demons to serve her will—one UBERDEMON and THREE HENCH-DEMONS. She undoes B-5’s careful containment of them and frees them. They will do the deed.

(P.S. Killing possessed Meander wouldn’t accomplish getting rid of DG. Her spirit maintained after her own death, and would probably do so after the death of a host body. I’ll make this clear.)

PP leaves unseen, undetected.

After the kiss, Brainiac 5 has a bit of a funny feeling. No, not that kind. Well, okay, that kind, too—but also some little tickle in the back of his mind. Oh, well. He’s never had a kiss like that before…maybe it’s normal.

The next morning, Brainiac 5 strides through the HQ with a jaunty bounce in his step and a song in his heart and a smile on his face. He’s nice to everybody. The other Legionnaires suspect that he’s been replaced by a pod person…. B-5 can’t wait to take a nap later!

Meander wakes up in a lavish hotel room. Her hair is a mess, her sexy gown is disarranged, her makeup is smeared. She has that combo delicious sated afterglow/did-anyone-get-the-number-of-that-truck feeling one has after a wild night. We ain’t saying that they had sex, but we ain’t saying they didn’t. Meander gulps down the last of the champagne from the bottle and tries to pull herself together.  Wow. That B-5 must be an animal! There’s a note, one of those thanks-for-last-night-notes from B-5, and a single rose. Meander shrugs. Apparently DG and B-5 had a great time. And she ends up with the headache. Oh, well. She heads home. God, does she want a bath!

Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl attempt to speak with Brainiac 5 about Princess Projectra’s strange, troubling behavior. He has no time. He has to work double-hard to make up for the time he’s taken off.

Later, that night, Brainiac 5 yawns. Time for a nap. (He hardly ever sleeps through the night—usually 20 minutes here and there.)

Brainiac 5 drifts off. He dreams. Dream Girl enters his dream. They kiss, they cling to each other. Their love is beyond measure.

Brainiac 5, on bended knee, proposes. He’s dreamed up an impressive engagement ring!

Dream Girl accepts.

And then, the UBERDEMON attacks. I want to call this guy IDJIT. I see him as almost comical/cartoony in a way, but in a horrific way. That chilling combo of goofy-cute and blood-curdling terror. I never saw any of the “Chucky” films, but I think that’s what they must have been going for. Stephen King’s It and others went a little that way, too. He is the antithesis of B-5’s conscious mind in many ways.

At first, B-5 doesn’t react. He thinks this is like the AD at the beginning, a dream thing that can’t really hurt DG. DG screams! This one is different.

IDJIT carries Dream Girl off to murky depths. Brainiac 5 tries to stop him, but his “power,” the force field, is defensive, and there’s nothing at hand to fight with. B-5 tries to follow….

The HENCH-DEMONS—I want to call them BEATER, BITER and LAFF—see IDJIT’s approach with his quarry. The can’t wait to get their talons on DG.

Brainiac 5 arrives at some nightmare/horror locale in his id. In some pit, out of sight, the Hench-demons torture Dream Girl. Idjit stands guard, barring B-5’s way to save her.

B-5 battles Idjit in spectacular ways I’ll invent. But…B-5 is losing!  Idjit is a mighty urge, an inner demon of immense power. B-5 is being cut to bits, eviscerated—his will is eroding, his strength failing. He seems ready to succumb.

Dream Girl’s screams fire his courage and will once more. Nothing he has thrown at Idjit has done much good. He remembers, and focuses on Dream Girl’s words, said re: the “AD” at the beginning. “It’s all in your mind….”

This is his mind! He is master here!

Brainiac 5 rises up. He stops trying to fight and starts taking command. It is his mind…his mind…his mind…!

Suddenly, Idjit cannot harm him. Suddenly, B-5, here, in his mind, is utterly godlike. He is all-powerful.

Brainiac 5 screams “Get out of my mind!”—or somesuch—and Idjit VANISHES! Cast out!

B-5 storms into the pit where Beater, Biter and Laff are working their horrors upon Dream Girl. Glowing with almighty power, B-5 stalks toward them. Uh-oh….

Brainiac 5 utterly destroys the Hench-demons! But…before Laff is unmade, he stabs his claws toward Dream Girl’s eyes!

It’s over.

B-5’s “godlike” glow and power fade.

Brainiac 5 cradles badly-hurt Dream Girl. He’s crushed. This is all his fault.

She comforts him! She knew there were risks. She would face anything to be with him.

It is revealed (probably earlier) that Dream Girl could have escaped the hideous torture at any time by simply allowing her spirit self to “go toward the light”—to be drawn into the highest plane, the BEYOND. Heaven, though we’ll avoid religious references, where she belongs. But, there is no return from there—and so she chose to stay here, no matter what. (Driving her to escape to the Beyond was, in fact the goal of the Demons—the mission Princess Projectra gave them in return for freedom. What better way to be rid of DG forever?)

Brainiac 5 gently carries her out of the pit. She needs medical help—but how does one mend a spirit?

Dream Girl tells him that her wounds will fade—all but two. When Laff clawed her eyes, he blinded her. And worse, his claws struck deep—and took away her second sight as well.

Brainiac 5 is crushed. His remorse is endless, his grief palpable, his guilt….

NO! says DG. No guilt. That’s the key to the door that would free more demons. What happened, happened. It’s over. The important thing is that they’re together.

B-5 thinks maybe she should go toward the light. Being with him, much less marrying him, is probably the worst thing that she could do.

No, says DG. He proposed, she accepted, and she desperately wants to be his wife. Even if he reneges, she will remain with him. Unless he casts her out, she won’t go.

They kiss.

The dream they’re in starts to dissolve. Something is waking him up. An alarm, DG says. There is an emergency in the real world for which he is needed. She wishes she could tell him what it is, or how things will go, but….

B-5 is loathe to leave her. Do what you must, she says. She never thought she’d hear herself say these words, but…“Get to work!”

Brainiac 5 awakens. He’s grim, serious, hurting badly inside, but forcing his mind to focus on whatever the problem may be. That is his super-power. (The problem is, of course, that the Intruder Planet/ADs are attacking.)

In the home of Baron Biehler, Princess Projectra, the Shaman and others celebrate their victory. Better if Dream Girl had been driven out, but blinded will do.

In a dark, grimy alleyway on the lowest level of the city, IDJIT pulls himself to his feet. He touches his arms, his face and things around him. There’s no doubt. He exists in the real world! Cast out, indeed!  What to do now…? What to do…?


END PART 1


ISSUE #50

Part 2:  “Mystical Union”

PLOT:

The gist of the wedding issue, #50, is this:

It takes place immediately after the ADs are defeated. (And, therefore, there’s another small “break.”)

Brainiac 5 is taking lessons from Meander re: the mystical realities. He’s determined to understand all there is to understand about the un-realities so that he can make absolutely sure that nothing menaces Dream Girl ever again. 

This issue will be almost entirely devoted to the wedding and events leading up to it. The bachelor party, the rehearsal, whatever. Fun stuff. The Legionnaires participate by means of shared dreams.

I envision a “four-page spread” for the climactic wedding scene. Don’t panic, Mike, I’m not asking for a fold-out. I figure to do it the way Steranko did—two consecutive two-page spreads designed so that if you bought two copies and laid the books side by side, one opened to spread “A” and one opened to spread “B,” they would fit together to make a four-page-wide spread.

On that four-page spread, I propose to feature a horde of people and characters. The Legionnaires, of course, Meander, other heroes I can logically justify (especially any who are dead), a few non-DC characters hinted at discreetly, other notable fictional folks, AND Shelly Moldoff, Curt Swan, George Klein, E. Nelson Bridwell, Edmond Hamilton, Otto Binder, Al Plastino, Jack Abel, Win Mortimer, Murray Boltinoff, Dave Cockrum—you get the drift. NO LIVING CREATORS! This ain’t about self-aggrandizement. Also, a super-fan, the late Rich Morissey. I’ll ask LSH expert Glen Cadigan to help me with the list. I might throw in Julie Schwartz trying to crash the party.

The presiding official…? Don’t know yet. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson? Harry Donenfeld? Sol Harrison? Mike Marts? Dan Didio? Paul Levitz? Dave Cockrum? President Kieselbach? R.J. Brande? A made-up character?

There will be action via an opportunity provided by one of the guests—either the guest him/herself will cause a ruckus that is quelled by the Legionnaires and other guests, or some “hitch-hiker” that tagged along with a guest will cause a disturbance. This won’t be as grim and serious as the set-up issue. The “threat” will be colorful, the action will be fun, but nothing dire enough to really mar the occasion.  Potential “foes” might be the dreaded “Y-ZINGER” (as in Mort), or the ghost of the SUN-EATER.  Or whatever. Whoever/whatever will be defeated or destroyed by the Legionnaires and the guests. I see the artists doing battle with spear-sized pencils and pens, the writers—who are chained to their typewriters ball-and-chain style—swinging them like medieval flails, and the editors shouting orders.

Possibly IDJIT plays a role, or attempts some mischief in the real world and is rebuffed—but he’ll be back.

The good guys win, the reception is a blast and the honeymoon…? Ooh-la-la.


FIN

_________________________

On the downloads sidebar you’ll find the finished script. It’s the “balloon placement” script, which has some adjustments and modifications in the copy I had to make to accommodate the fact that the penciler, Rick Leonardi, ignored some scene descriptions, ignored some reference, added panels, eliminated panels, failed to allow room for the copy—working from a full script!—and otherwise made my life difficult. Just like most other artists these days, who seem to take full scripts, approved by the editor, as suggestions.

There was never time to have art corrected at DC, and it was always okay to keep me up all night rewriting to accommodate the artist’s “editing” of my story.

Here is a supplementary package of reference I provided for this story.

WARNING! SOME OF THE REFERENCE PHOTOS ARE OF AN UNCLOTHED MODEL! If you find such things offensive, please avoid the following supplementary reference package. P.S. the editor and artist did not find them offensive.

I thought this script was one of my better efforts. I wish I’d gotten to finish the story. It would have been fun.

_________________________

DESIGNS REQUIRED FOR ISSUE #47
02/24/08


MEANDER

Meander is young, pretty, light brown-skinned and dark-haired. She has piercing eyes of unusual color—“thousand-year-old-eyes” that one would swear had seen the pyramids rise. Facially, Amel Larrieux, could be Meander, perhaps with slightly lighter skin:
I see Meander as slender, graceful, sylphlike, distinctly smaller-busted and thinner than any of the Legion girls!  This girl’s body is perfect:
Meander wears “retro” 21st Century clothing. Please avoid Goth clothes—don’t want to make her look like Death from the Sandman series. I see her as wearing a very tight baby tee shirt that doesn’t quite reach to her waist, allowing us to see some yummy tummy between it and her extreme low-rise, super-tight jeans, which are rolled up above her ankles. Here are two baby tees:
Maybe the tee has an iconic 20th Century image on it. A smiley face?


She also wears lace-up sneakers with no sox. She might sometimes wear a hat. Could be a bonnet, a baseball cap, a beret, a bicorne, a tricorne, a sombrero, whatever. On top, I’d suggest that she wear an opera cape:


Key features of the opera cape are the hood and the slits that allow the arms to poke through.

NOTE:  When Meander becomes a Legionnaire, her uniform will be different.  This is just for now.  Though we might keep the opera cape, if you like it.     


IDJIT

Idjit is an Uberdemon, the manifestation of all the twisted, dark, depraved yearnings in the blackest corners of Brainiac 5’s id.  He’s all of what Brainiac 5 tries to repress given form.  I see him as tall, thin—even a little gaunt—handsome in a bad boy sort of way, human-looking, possibly with some subtle differences.  I don’t know what—something to give him a devil-ish aspect without resorting to the cliché symbology (horns, tail, pitchfork, etc.).  I think we could do pointed, Mr. Spock-like ears without looking too corny, but…dunno.  I think it would be good to do something subtle but interesting with his eyes—say, make them vary from yellow to orange to red when seen from a distance, and in very close up shots show, literally, fire inside them!  Or something….  I don’t know.  They might even literally be smoldering—that is, there might be tiny wisps of smoke wafting from his eyes, visible only in extreme close ups.

The above is when he’s “normal.”  When aroused, in anger, in combat, he’ll become bigger, stronger and more dangerous-looking.  Then, possibly his eyes are really ablaze, then, possibly his nails grow clawlike, and, what the hell, maybe he sprouts horns—unique and interesting horns, not the Hot Stuff cutesy kind.

As for clothes, I picture Idjit wearing some subtly kinky, fetish-y stuff, like a leather harness over his bare chest.  He wears leather pants and boots.  He probably has on women’s lingerie under the pants.

Here are a couple of leather harnesses, just for (lame) example:
Over the above I see him wearing a coat sort of conceptually similar to the one Neo wore in the Matrix—something that flows and blows, cape-like.  We have to do something distinctly different than Neo’s coat, of course. I’m thinking maybe we could base his coat on a cutaway tux jacket:
Or something.


BEATER, BITER and LAFF—the “Three Stooges” demons:

BEATER

I see this guy as a demonic version of a redneck brute. Here’s a scribble:
Big Popeye forearms and big hands with oversized, rock-like knuckles.  Stupid-looking.  He wears a wife-beater tee-shirt! 

BITER

I see this guy as an anthropomorphized pit bull.  Here’s some pit bull ref:
LAFF

I see this guy as a big, fat, demon with really nasty-looking knife-like claws.  Here’s a scribble:







UNITED PLANETS SPACE FLEET SHIPS


U.P. Military Spaceships appear in this issue, and I don’t think they’ve ever been seen before.  They’ll pop up here and there, and will be important at the climax of “One Evil.”  I think it would be a good thing for you to design them, since they’ll be around for a while.  They include:



CAPITAL WARSHIPS

SMALLER “ESCORT” WARSHIPS

SUPPORT VESSELS


INTRUDER PLANET

Another item that will appear in one of your issues first, but that Rick will be drawing before you do, is the “Intruder Planet.”  It’s described in the script as a “gas giant” (like Jupiter) but “strange.”  I sort of picture it as a planet that has a lot of odd “features” like Jupiter’s famous “red spot.”
That’s it.


If you’d rather leave any or all of this stuff to Rick, I understand, but I hope you can squeeze it in.

Francis Manapul's interpretation



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