Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blog and Twitter Updates: Black Sails?

I spoke too soon. Since my post yesterday, both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have reminded readers that the extra-long finale to Incognito is in stores now.

(Just read it this afternoon, and the overall story now strikes me as an unfolding, epic riff on the "origin stories" from Sleeper, and I mean that as quite high praise.)

Brubaker appears to be focusing on his Twitter page rather than his Myspace blog, and today he has several noteworthy tweets. He asked readers to spread the word that the new issue is out, and he announced that Bill Hader is writing the introduction to the trade collection of the series. He explained to a curious fan that Marvel doesn't actually get any revenue from his Icon work, and he answered a fan who (like me) was wondering if the late release of this last issue will cause a delay for Criminal, relaying that the first issue of the new arc "goes to print soon."

Most interestingly, Brubaker highlighted an "expanded version" of Jess Nevins' essay on "The Zeppelin Pulps," which graces the few pages of this week's Incognito #6. Nevins writes, "this may be the single thing I’m most proud of having written, if only because doing research on the zeppelin pulps and the background to Complete Zeppelin Stories was such a challenge."

(N.B. This isn't the first time an official source has published a version of an essay found in the back of Brubaker and Phillips' Icon work. We reported last year that Patton Oswalt's essay on Blast of Silence was also available online, but the link now appears to be broken.)

Also this week, our own Alan David Doane has published his third eBook, a free book in PDF format that features nearly 50 comics-related interviews. Ed Brubaker was interviewed in 2004 and again in 2006, and both interviews are published here. Also included is a 2004 interview with Sean Phillips, where Phillips mentions a Brubaker collaboration that's completely new to me: a project called Black Sails.

A quick search revealed that, in September 2004 -- before I really kept up with comic news sites -- Newsarama published a press release about the project, along with a brief interview with Brubaker. The project was a three-issue horror mini-series about vampire pirates manning the ship on which Dracula sailed.

From the interview and subsequent forum comments from Brubaker and Phillips, we can see some ideas that have almost certainly stuck around in some form.

Ed Brubaker: "As for why horror, it's probably because I've been working out a longer project that Sean and I are going to do with IDW after this, that has elements of all kinds of pulp -- horror, crime, adventure, mystery, even some sci-fi -- and because of that, I'd been reading more old pulp horror, and this idea just hit me. So I thought, okay, before we jump into an epic, lets do something shorter, for a break, and to establish ourselves as a team outside of Sleeper."

Sean Phillips: "The format is going to be 32 pages of STORY per issue. I'll be painting the pages and taking care of the lettering and design as well. One of the only things I asked of IDW was total artistic control."

Arguably, we're seeing "all kinds of pulp" with the Icon work, where the two work to provide cover-to-cover content in every issue, and where Sean Phillips is really responsible for the entire art design.

But where is Black Sails?

Obviously the project never saw completion. The press release explains that the horror comic was to be published by IDW in the spring of 2005, but that February Marvel announced its exclusive contract with Brubaker, beginning with Captain America. Criminal debuted the following year.

When the exclusive contract was announced, Brubaker mentioned having "unprecedented freedom to finish all [his] prior commitments and to do creator-owned work, either at Marvel or elsewhere."

That apparently didn't include Black Sails, but that raises the question of the project's current status and ultimate fate. Has the comic been started or even completed? Must the comic be published by IDW, and is that company waiting for the exclusive contract with Marvel to run its course?

Or could we see the mini-series published by Icon, as an interlude between their crime and pulp titles?

(For that matter, was Phillips really "painting" the comic?)

If I can get any answers to these questions, I'll report them here.

UPDATE, Sept 3rd: I had a little more time to do some digging this morning, and over at Brian Michael Bendis' JinxWorld forum, I found a June, 2007, thread where people were asking what happened to Black Sails.

Ed Brubaker briefly replied:

"Here's the deal. It came down to a few things, partly contract stuff with the publisher we were talking to, and partly that suddenly there were two other pirate vampire ideas announced right at the same time. Then Sean and I just decided we wanted to do a crime book, instead.

"Maybe someday I'll do it somehow. I have the whole outline.

Some preliminary work has already been completed, and we might see the comic eventually, but it's probably not part of the foreseeable future. If I ever come across more information about this unfinished collaboration -- particularly any rumblings that the vampire comic might actually see the light the day -- I'll be sure to let everyone know.

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