AN OPEN LETTER TO BILL JEMAS AND JOE QUESADA
I read with great interest the recent exchange between Mr.
Quesada and Peter
David, writer of Captain Marvel (among many other titles).
It was while reading these internet postings that I had a revelation that gave
me a warm squishy feeling in my own gut, much like Mr. David wrote you about.
Although my gut is not as considerable as Mr. David's, I think it is equally
capable of warmth and squishiness, and so I write to you.
Before I get to that revelation, though, I wanted to mention my reasons for
not buying a book like Captain Marvel. It is certainly not any
fault of Peter's; in fact, were it being written by anyone other than him, I
would have even less interest in the title than I do now. It's not the money,
either; a long time ago, when comics broke the $2.00 barrier, I largely stopped
paying attention to price. If a book is over $3.50, I notice it, but an extra
quarter on one side or the other of the price tag doesn't affect what I read.
The real reason that I don't read the book outside of the occasional review
issue is that I care nothing for the characters in the book. Much like the Black
Panther and your Distinguished Competition's Green Arrow, all the brilliant
writing and critical acclaim in the world (some of which, I might add, I wrote)
doesn't make some characters more interesting.
Further defense of Peter: his run on The Incredible Hulk was
phenomenal. It's been said by better reviewers than me that his writing on the
title helped revive the character, and I agree completely. The characters in
that book have undergone some fairly drastic changes since Mr. David departed,
and (at least, up until Bruce Jones took over recently), not one of them seemed
right in the face of what Peter had accomplished earlier. The issues of Captain
Marvel that I've read are well-scripted, entertaining, and sometimes
provocative -- exactly the things that marked his runs on Hulk,
X-Factor, and his weekly column for CBG. Unfortunately, no matter
how good I think his work on Captain Marvel is (and that of the
art team, as well), I just don't care about the characters or the conflicts.
Peter is an amazing sculptor, but there's only so much you can carve out of
dried cowpies, if you'll pardon the analogy.
But I digress...
I have a simple proposal to you, one that I feel that you can't possibly ignore.
It's an offer, with the upside that there's a potentially large pay-off to you
on the other side of all this. The deal is this: give me a character that people
can dig, and I'll raise the sales numbers far above and beyond what they currently
Now, before you blow me off completely, allow me to tell you a little about
myself. I may be no Peter David, but I've got a fair amount of writing under
my belt. Besides a weekly column and comic reviews for RevolutionSF,
I've also worked as a freelance reviewer for other websites, as well as The
Birmingham Weekly. I've written a few screenplays, one of which will be
filmed any day now. And I've written a lot of short stories, and I have the
rejection letters to prove it.
But my history isn't important; you've got an Entertainment Weekly journalist
coming in to handle an X-book, and the rumors still fly that Freddie Prinze
is going to write a title for you. In the overall scheme of things, am I any
less qualified, on paper, than these two? Even if you're counting on name value
to sell books, well -- I've got a friend or three that will buy my books, too.
Maybe even a family member.
Besides, I guarantee you that sales on the character I want to write can't
get any lower. That's right -- you may not have the next Dark Knight Returns
on your hands, but I promise you that I won't let this character sell
less books than he currently sells. If that happens, you can... Let's just talk
about that later, but I'm sure we can agree on a suitable punishment.
In fact, let's make this even safer for you. Rather than sign me on for a regular
series, you can give me a short-term commitment, to see how things go. How about
a three-issue limited series? There's a lot of benefits here:
1) I won't get too attached to the character. This is, after all, a major criticism
of some writers, who feel that when you're playing in someone else's sandbox,
you shouldn't get upset if they take their toys back. Hey, if you want to send
me to the swings because my sand castles aren't popular enough, fine by me.
2) There won't be any compaints of the fourth issue sales being far below what
I expect. 'Nuff said, so to speak.
3) People are more likely to buy a series that they know will have a beginning
and an end. I saw that on the Internet somewhere.
4) Anything I might do to Marvel's character over three issues will be easy
enough for another writer to retroactively revise somewhere down the line. Does
anyone even remember what happens in mini-series anymore anyway?
Now, here's the clincher. First, the character: give me Hellstorm. We haven't
seen the character since Warren Ellis did such a bang-up job on him years back,
and it's high time he came back (and I, as much as anyone, would like to see
Warren bring him back, but since he's exclusive to your Distinguished Competition...).
The material can be handled properly under the MAX banner. Sales are currently
at zero (told you they wouldn't get any lower). There are tons of artists out
there who are perfectly suited for the job; Jae Lee, Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz.
And horror material is hot right now. This is the sort of thing that can't possibly
go wrong, and you won't need in house ads, or full-page spreads in WIZARD. Hell,
they might pay you for the story! Think of it -- MARVEL HIRES NO-NAME INTERNET
GUY TO WRITE COMIC -- FANS REACT WITH AWE!
Oh, the part you can't refuse... I thought Peter's idea was a good one, actually.
If you had taken him up on it and cut his salary, you could have kept the price
stable on Captain Marvel (though I don't think that would have
helped anything in the long run). You could have run more ads (though everyone
already knows how 'kewl' the book that they shouldn't be missing is). But I'm
going to do him one better. I'm offering to write this three issue mini-series
for the low, low rate of nothing. That's nothing per issue, which adds up to
a grand total of free for all three books. Think of all the things you can do
with the extra budget: higher quality paper, advertising, hell -- you two could
take your significant others and head to Jamaica for a few days, on me.
Consider it my gift for letting me write a character that means a lot to me.
I know it feels strange, even considering taking a chance on a nameless, faceless
writer. But think about it, at least, before you dismiss it. There's publicity,
my three friends who I promise will buy the book, and a possible trip overseas
for you. How can you possibly not be somewhat attracted by the thought?