Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just when I think I'm out (of comics), they (comics) pull me back in...

This was actually a pretty interesting week on the comics front for me, and against all odds that had pretty nothing to do with the Watchmen.

After months of indifference from practically everyone in the medium who isn't in some way related to Zeros2Heroes, things comics-related suddenly started moving for me again. I got the OK to pitch for an ongoing comic anthology last week, did so over the weekend, got an "ok, go to the next step" with one of the stories pitched (they passed on a Spooky Kids short accompanied by kickass designs by artist extraordinaire John Keane--the fools, the damn fools!). Wrote the script on Tuesday, got notes on Wednesday, revised earlier today. One of the co-editors has already responded, stating he's happy with the latest draft. Hopefully the other one will be too, and then it'll be down to whether the artist can work the story into her schedule for the deadline for the next volume.

Even if it all goes south, it's still nice to be working on something in my preferred medium--and even nicer to have people responding positively to it. Which brings me to the next happening in this synchonicity-charged period:

After months of radio silence, an editor at a major comics publisher got back in touch with me to inform me that he liked my three pitches. He's kicked them up the chain for his bosses to look at, so hopefully I'll hear something on them in the next couple of weeks (which I'm interpreting as in the next six months, if I'm lucky). While it'd be great to get something I wrote picked up by a company that has a decent page rate for a change, this process has been so drawn out that I'm not holding out a lot of hope for anything happening on that front. If it does, great, but I'm trying to approach it as icing on my so far mostly theoretical comics writing career, rather than the cake.

While the advances on those two fronts largely came out of left field, the third high point of the week was something I'd been anticipating for some time, literally years. On Friday, I formally requested the rights to JEST CAUSE and CONVICTION back from Platinum Studios. I'd been faintly hopeful of getting one or both returned without the intervening period in which Platinum can either start principal photography on a TV show or movie (given the speed with which things happen in Hollywood in general, and the speed with which they haven't happened with these projects in particular, if this happens I'll probably fall out of my chair) or give me substantially more money than I got the first time round to extend their control of the properties for another painfully long period of time.

It was good that the hope for a quick return was faint, as my request to forego the renewal period was politely rebuffed. The reasons given for said rebuffing make perfect sense from the company's viewpoint but are still frustrating from mine, mostly because, prior to this week, I hadn't heard of them attempting to do anything at all with the properties for literally years and, for various reasons, can't see them succeeding in getting something going even if they were or are trying to get the properties picked up for development in non-comics media. I'd be fine with that if I had a published comic to show for either of them, but to the best of my knowledge, any work on producing a comic based on my scripts stopped long ago (in Conviction's case I don't think it even actually started). I've long since stopped expecting or hoping for production of a comic to resume unless and until I get the rights back (and even then, it's unlikely even I'd go much further with at least one of the properties--an idea whose "best before" date expired some time ago.)

Not that I'd be upset to see something happen in non-comics (read as "financially lucrative") media. According to my managers, even a project like Cowboys & Aliens, which I was only ever involved in as a comic and have had absolutely nothing at all to do with for...I think it's a couple years?, is apparently good to be associated with. Even if a C&A film never gets made--and at this point, I'm honestly surprised any film ever gets made--it's got some kind of "buzz", because of Robert Downey Jr.'s supposed connection to the project (last I heard, he was just in negotiations to be a part of the movie {a movie I don't think has actually been fully written yet}, which didn't strike me as something to be particularly excited about, but a lot of people seemed to be, regardless...). And buzz is supposedly a good thing in Hollywood, at least that's what the people who'll someday get 10% of my Hollywood earnings for knowing stuff like that tell me.

Getting the property back, a film deal, or some "buying myself out of crippling debt" money for Jest Cause and Conviction does presume Platinum's still going to be around a year from now, of course--something that might not seem like a great bet if you're on the outside looking in. I believe this was the third consecutive Previews catalogue with no Platinum books solicited. That would indicate they stopped soliciting even prior to Diamond's new benchmark levels being instituted, but it isn't necessarily as disastrous a sign as it might be in the case of some other smaller publishers. Platinum has a fairly long history of using the web to distribute its product (cutting costs by both eliminating printing and if not absolutely removing, cerrtainly curtailing the possibility of creator royalties. I believe DJ Coffmann has stated he never received ad revenues for his online Hero By Night work; I certainly never got any compensation beyond my initial advances on Cowboys & Aliens, Crimson Rose, and Jeremiah: The Last Empire, for online ad revenues or anything else.)

Curious, I asked a number of Platinum employees what's happening with the company. I didn't really expect much in the way of an answer. Since Platinum went public, people there have been playing their cards very close to their chest when it comes to what's going on, citing information restrictions based on their public company status as the reason for their reticence to discuss things. This seems a little weird, at least to a non-business-minded person like myself, considering they now seem to have to publicly report their financial situation on a regular basis. But then, almost everything business-oriented seems weird to me. When it doesn't seem weird, it generally seems just plain evil, so weird isn't bad, not at all. It's for the best, both for me and the world in general, if this is stuff I continue to not understand. Ignorance may not be bliss, but I'll take it where I can get it.

While straightforward and detailed answers on the company's situation weren't forthcoming--shock!--most of the people I talked to did seem pretty upbeat about its future prospects (more upbeat than I'd be if I was working for minimum wage in Hollywood, anyway.) I gather they're looking at non-Direct Market distribution alternatives for future publishing. IM completely uninformed O, that would be a smart thing for them to be looking at. After all, the entire line of books being developed when I first started pitching to the company was aimed not at comic shops but very directly at mass market bookstores. I still think stuff like Adventures of Tymm and Jest Cause would work best in a graphic album format along the lines of Asterix & Obelix and Tintin--in fact, now that I think about it, if I ever do manage to get JC back and decide to do something with it as a comic, I'll probably return to the original script, which was written with at least an 8 1/2 by 11 inch page size in mind. Digest sized books still seem to be all the rage, but I was reading Asterix and Tintin when I was six years old and those books are still on store shelves today. It's got to have something going for it as a format to have lasted that long.

There's still some good people at Platinum, so I hope the company does survive--for their sake as well as my own. It'd be nice to get either a five figure cheque or my stuff back, but I've got at least a year before either of those is a reasonable possibility. Tick tock, tick tock...

(It's times like this I'm glad my managers don't read my blog--I'm supposed to have been working on revising a screenplay all week. That's where the money theoretically is, not this penny-ante, creatively satisfying comic stuff.)

A

1 comment:

D.J. said...

Hey Andrew. I'd just like to correct you on the fact that while I didn't technically receive any ad money from the site or wowio books, I did receive payment for my online work. Currently Platinum only owes me for ONE minor thing which they told me back in January I'd be paid for, but I reckon they got busy with all the Dead of Night busyness and I'm just a forgotten particle right now.

I feel just about the same way as you in regards to their future. I don't wish to see them fail. I just wish they ran their business smarter and just a LITTLE more transparent. I was always critical of how their sites and blogs never update on time and their lack of social media marketing and just well, marketing in general. Even when they had a paid marketing guy they didn't market very well.