Blah Blah Blog – My Unknown Greats, Part 2

Another post from my long-gone Marvel blog, part of a sequence detailing comics I worked on that I liked but which flew under the radar a bit.

My Unknown Greats pt. 2

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

For some strange reason, the system ate the last paragraph or so and the sign-off for yesterday’s blog entry. Weird. In any event, let’s move onto another Unknown Great.

BLAZE OF GLORY can’t entirely be considered one of “my” Unknown Greats. The project was started by editor Mark Bernardo.

In any event, while almost any western project is a tough sell, Mark got the go-ahead to proceed with the book, and Leonardo Manco signed on to do the artwork. It was scheduled to be a two-issue Prestige Format series, squarebound. Mark, John and Leo got about halfway into it when the bottom dropped out. For these were the days of the Marvel bankruptcy, and in one of the periodic rounds of layoffs, Bernardo was let go from the company, and the project was killed, the work that had already been done written off.

And that’s where the story might have ended, if not for the efforts of my then-assistant Gregg Schigiel. A short while later, he brought the series to my attention–he’d seen some of the art for it, and he wanted to see if there was some way we could continue and complete it. I remember that Gregg took an inventory of exactly what had been produced up till that point, and then he sat down with numbers guy Andy Ball to run P & L (Profit and Loss) numbers on a variety of different formats: would it be profitable as a single volume? As four monthly issues? As a black-and-white series? And so on. Eventually, buoyed by the fact that over half the series had already been drawn and written off (so the costs to complete those pages wouldn’t be weighted against the project any longer), he came up with a format that was deemed acceptable–and the series rode again!

In moving into this format, we had to break what would have been the first 48 page book in an odd place, in order to get to an appropriate story break–so the first issue had 27 pages of story, while the second one had only 21.

While in no way a sales juggernaut, the book was well-received enough that I later produced a follow-up for the then-new MAX line, titled APACHE SKIES. That series, however, was fully painted by Leo. I did hear some complaints, though, both about the handling of the characters in this somewhat-more-realistic depiction (their earlier exploits chalked up to being Dime-Novel exaggerations.), and the fact that a number of them met their end in this series (chiefly the Two-Gun Kid.) I always found that just a little bit strange–after all, by 1999 when the book was eventually published, all of these characters would have been dead and gone for almost 100 years even if they’d lived to be old men!

More later.

Tom B

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9 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – My Unknown Greats, Part 2

  1. I enjoyed this series very much. Although I know it might not draw enough of an audience, I would love to see an ongoing Marvel western featuring the characters in their heyday and dressed in their classic outfits. A Marvel’s Magnificent Seven with Kid Colt, Reno Jones, Two-Gun Kid, Red Wolf, Rawhide Kid, Ringo Kid, and Outlaw Kid. Always liked them better than Jonah Hex.

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  2. Some bonus behind-the-scenes details for this Unknown Great (thanks for the mention/credit, boss), for those interested:

    When I came across the art, as I recall, all four issued were penciled and inked and a painted cover was done. From there, with your okay, Tom, I tried to put it together as a b/w OGN (to showcase the beautiful Leonardo Manco art), even meeting with the then head of manufacturing, Allison Gil, who was prepared to get quotes from (cheaper) printers overseas. She excitedly suggested perhaps printing on cream colored paper, for an extra “old timey” look.

    And since it’d be black and white, no need to hire a colorist, and an ogn, no need to commission additional covers. At that same time, Marvel had started their in-house lettering program, which meant we’d be able to letter the entire thing in-house, saving a bunch of money.

    With all of that, and armed with a stack of non-Marvel/DC b&w or one-color OGNs (Optic Nerve, Ghost World, Maus) priced under $15 as examples of what I had in mind, I sat down to talk P&L. That meeting, from my POV, was a disaster. He punched in numbers for X pages at X price printing X number of copies. “Why print that many copies?” I asked. “Why is the cover price $17.99?”. “Because that’s the number we print for TPs,” was the answer. I pushed back, “But this isn’t a TP, it’s an OGN, in black and white, and Alison said we can get a different quote on the printing…” But nope, none of that mattered and the “numbers didn’t add up” and that was it.

    Until days, or maybe a week or so later, Andy Ball popped in to our office to let us know that BLAZE OF GLORY was a go, four issues, full-color, priced at $2.99 (this, at a time when Marvel books were $1.99 or $2.25, I think?). On the one hand, cool. On the other, what?! So now, instead of the costs amounting to just lettering and production for work that was already done and paid for, we had to hire a colorist and commission 3 additional covers, increasing production costs that could have been nil. I still hold that an b/w

    But it was a groovy book, and it was satisfying to finally see it collected as a complete single volume, even if not black and white on cream colored paper.

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    1. Thanks, Gregg! I don’t believe all four issues were completely penciled and inked; I know that some of that work was done under our auspices. But all four (or at that point, two) chapters had been written, and it’s possible that there were at least pencil layouts all the way to the end of it.

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      1. Let’s split the difference and say three issues were penciled and inked, ha ha. (I wonder if Mark Bernardo would remember what he’d left behind…)

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  3. I love both minis, and also Ostrander´s DC Western mini The Kents. I´d love to see John writing a monthly western book…

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  4. I still laugh recalling the scene in the saloon where someone shouts “Kid!” and get´s the attention of Rawhide Kid, Two Gun Kid, Kid Colt, Outlaw Kid…

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  5. John Ostrander gets overlooked. He wrote some of my favorite dialog for Batman in a few different places, including “Suicide Squad”. I wish he’d had an extended run on a monthly Bat-title.

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  6. I think this came out during the only period I had ever stopped buying comics. I did adore Slap Leather and the Sensational Seven tho’.

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