Monday, January 29, 2007

More News on Boys

Just as I thought, Boys was too racy for DC's Wildstorm imprint. Especially with it being about superheroes engaging in some of the most debaucherous acts one could imagine. Here's what Rick Johnston revealed in this week's Lying in the Gutters:

"Okay, you waited all weekend like good children. So what did happen with "The Boys" then?

This relatively-new creator-owned mature readers series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson published by Wildstorm told the stories of a group of people whose lives had been destroyed by superheroes and were taken government-sanctioned acts of revenge. It also portrayed said superheroes, filling the roles of familiar DC icons, as sexual and moral deviants. Quite right too.

In the past, DC Comics have not taken kindly to their DC icons being abused in such a way, especially publicly. There is still a major grudge at the company towards Joe Quesada over sexually derogatory comments he made about Superman and Batman in a newspaper. The series "The Authority" from Wildstorm was repeatedly neutered after it gained mainstream publicity over Mark Millar's use of the Superman and Batman archetypes, and gay couple, Apollo and Midnighter. But "The Boys" hadn't yet received such publicity - so what was the issue?

Well, it wasn't sales. Ex-Wildstorm and Authority editor John Layman wrote as much on Millarworld "I guarantee you it had nothing to do with sales and everything to do with content." Indeed, sales have been good, the book has been outperforming most other Wildstorm titles and issues 4 and 5 has seen the usual decline of sales reverse and start heading up. This looked like a book with a strong future ahead of it. And indeed, it still does. Just not at DC.

Last year, LITG reported that #3 of "The Boys" was slightly delayed from Wildstorm's end due to content worries - and whether or not Paul Levitz would allow the book to be published. It seems clear that there had been some issues regarding the title, promoted as "out-preachering Preacher", a book from Ennis that Levitz had previously described as not to his taste. Of course, Preacher was DC-superhero-archetype free. After internal pressure at DC, the book was passed. But this event put the title more onto Levitz's radar.

At the beginning on January, the decision came down to cancel the book due to content issues in material that had been printed, combined with the likelihood of those issues getting worse and worse. Specifically, presenting DC superhero archetypes in a severely immoral fashion. As a result, a move to Vertigo wasn't on the cards either.

I learnt about the decision shortly afterwards, but was asked to keep quiet, so as to smooth over the transition from DC to another publisher. Although the book is creator owned, such contracts at DC make it almost impossible for a book to leave DC without the publisher's agreement. "Fallen Angel" and "2020 Visions" did, "Skreemer" and "Epicurus The Sage" didn't. And it was feared that comics press publicity of the situation could affect the ease of transition. And hey, I liked "The Boys" a lot. However with the expected date for #7 creeping nearer and nearer (indeed, Diamond's shipping status still has it listed for this week, at time of print) and with a number of people coming to me with the news, the situation was becoming untenable. Newsarama broke the news on Wednesday.

So which home for "The Boys"? What about Marvel? Garth Ennis has a good history with their MAX line (though Darick's has been quite unfortunate). And the Icon line might also suit a creator owned property and has similarly few issues with extreme content. However, part of DC's agreeing to readily release the creator-owned book, is that it not move to Marvel. DC also wouldn't be happy with Darick Robertson, under an exclusive DC agreement, working for Marvel either.

Currently the two favourite options are Dyamite and Avatar, but there are quite a few other names ratcheting up. This is a publishing property quite a lot of people are going to fight over. But with so much paperwork at DC still to go through, it's going to take some time to come out the other side..."

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