Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I feel it`s time I put some old ghosts to rest, sparked off I might say by a comment by Mark ( http://badlibrarianship.blogspot.com/ ) on my last post.

In 1998 I signed a contract with DC to do a Maxi series involving Batman, who I`d been working on for about five years, and Superman together...Worlds Finest. I`d been frustrated with most of the work I`d produced because, in comparison with my successful Tongue Lash books, the work just wasn`t up to the standard I was searching for. I loved to ink my own work, as many EU creators do, and had never really found an inker who I felt ticked all my fussy boxes. It`s not their fault, they did great work, but I`m a Brit and we like to do things a little different. I was working in the American market where things at that time had to look a certain way...i.e in the "house style". I`d accepted that for years but had now found myself wanting to do things more like I`d done with Tongue Lash. I discussed this with Scott Peterson, he who had given me my break at DC and who had helped a great deal in my "rising stardom"!
The contract that we agreed on and signed was for 10 books, 280 ( I think ) pages, penciled and inked by me and to be coloured by Scarlett Smulkowski (who had beautifully coloured Tongue Lash and who had worked with Jean Moebius Giraud). It was going to be a very European looking series.
Karl Kesel, a great and respected writer, was signed up for the job and all was rosy. Karl and I discussed what we wanted to do and were both exited with the prospect. This was going to be great! This was going to open up my career like never before!
But then...

I`d pencilled the first 20 or so pages when I got the call from Scott who told me that the schedule had been dramatically moved forward and that I`d have to use an inker. I was pretty pissed at this, it was against the contract, it was diametrically apposed to what I wanted to do, but we got on with the job of finding someone who`d be up for it. Eventually we found the very talented Robert Campanella. But it just wasn`t the same when I got back to my drawing desk. I now had to consider an inker when I was drawing, something that I`d enjoyed not having to do. Trust me here, it`s a totally different job. But I got on with it without making waves.
A few weeks later Scott called me to inform me that he was leaving DC. I was really upset, and to be honest pretty scared of what might happen. He`d been my champion. He`d secured some amazing jobs. And he was great to work with.
The guys that took over the book I`d worked with and knew a little. I`m not going to mention them by name here 'cos I`m not that kind of guy, but it all turned to $%£&! In their defence they had had this book pushed onto their desks on top of everything else and hadn`t had the same relationship with me that Scott had so enjoyed! I`ve got nothing against them personally and the decisions they made were on the most part forced on them by circumstance.

I was working very hard to make this the best thing I`d ever done. Each page was as important as the last and I felt by this time that I was "cooking with gas"!
I`d finished the first two books ( 70 pages ) when I was informed that the schedule had been dramatically moved again and that I would have to produce many more pages a week. This really pissed me off. I knew that the work would suffer. I knew that the pages would look rushed. I knew that things had turned ugly.
I tried hard to develop a style that would be faster but still nice to look at.
I went on like this for a few more weeks when the evil phone rang out again. This time I was told that "we couldn`t use Scarlett to colour". DC had acquired Wildstorm and they had to use some of the guys who now needed work. Alex Sinclair was given the job. I then had to phone Scarlett to tell her she no longer had mainstream American work, something she was very exited about. I was talked into phoning her by one of the editors as "it might not sound so bad coming from you"! This disgusted me so much because it was a week or so before Christmas. Not a great time to get bad news.
The job had now really turned to $%&£! I was depressed that my great hope had turned into something I now felt trapped in. The only thing left in the contract that hadn`t changed was me. My work lost it`s drive, it`s passion, it`s fun and it`s ability. Also, with all the crap that had gone on Karl couldn`t help but be affected. I could tell from his scripts that he had also lost the drive, passion and fun.
I kept trying but it just wasn`t happening. I could hardly bring myself to draw anymore. I sat for a week on the beach in Bridlington ( a lovely coast!) and tried to figure out what the Hell to do. My dream job had turned into a nightmare. I quit.

But they wouldn`t let me quit. They phoned me a number of times asking if I could find any way of changing my mind. Eventually I said that I`d do the covers for the last five books and that was all (that would mean I`d have done all the covers) . I then had to find a replacement, seeing as I just couldn`t trust the editors to do it. They were more than happy it seemed for me to do this.
Peter Doherty, a friend for many years stepped into the breach, bless him!
After a few months I got a call asking me to consider doing the last 46 page book. What the Hell I thought. I`d had time by then to get away from the job and so started work on it with a new hope that I might be able to rescue something. I couldn`t! I got half way through and just couldn`t take any more. I totally quit. Exhausted, depressed, angry, disillusioned, frustrated and beaten.

What played on my mind over the coming months was the thought of the readers seeing the book grow from something I was pretty happy with to something I was embarrassed about. You could see clearly that I had lost something. And they wouldn`t know why. What had happened? I started hearing bad things. My good rep had been stripped away, and running around a depressed mind these things only help to fester. To my mind I had lost my ten year career. In fact I was told by a number of people (who shall also remain anonymous) that I "would never work in comics again". I was convinced. My comic book days were over. I was at that time 36 so what on Earth would I do now?!

I`m not getting around to telling this story at last because I`m bitter. I was, while I was depressed and not thinking clearly, but not any more and not for years.
I`m trying to get my much loved career back and felt it was time to tell my side of what happened. I`m not grinding any axes here. I`m only wanting the truth from my point of view to be "out there" as there is still some confusion and misunderstanding flouting about.
I don`t hold anyone but myself responsible.

So does this story have a moral? Probably not. Apart from the fact that a contract isn`t worth the paper it`s written on! Oh...and that old adage comes to mind..."be careful what you wish for..."!

And to end...
I can`t tell you how happy I am to be working for Wildstorm/DC. It`s funny how things turn out ain`t it!
(image copyright D.C Comics 2007)


Rol Hirst said...

I remember really looking forward to this book when it was announced, Dave - after your earlier work on Batman, I got the feeling it was going to be something really special. What might have been, eh?

There's a long tradition of promising comics ruined by rushed deadlines, but I do think the big two are taking steps to stop this happening as much these days.

Of course, when they do, fans just end up whinging about the books being late. You just can't win!

D.TAYLOR said...

All too true Rol. With such a big company like Warner, with shareholders and such, it often happens that us poor creators get the brunt of the push to hit a financial goal in a certain month. This, I`m lead to believe happened with this book. Unfortunately there doesn`t seem to be a way around this. Ho hum!

Mark said...

That's a helluva answer to a throwaway question, Dave! The history of comics is littered with "what might have been" projects (Ladronn's Dr Strange/Silver Surfer graphic novel, eh?), burnt out cases, and disillusioned artists. But what doesn't kills ya, makes ya stronger, right? Roll on BIG ROBOTS, when every two bit critic (like me) will be pronouncing your greatness from the rooftops.


D.TAYLOR said...

Well I did tell you it was a good question!

As for rooftop pronouncing...I bloody hope not! I don`t want to be held responsible for the unbalancing of "two bit critics"!
Please just declare my greatness from the comfort of you own home!!!