FOR TOMMY: BOB MORALES
Which of your ambitions in comics been thwarted so far - and
I'll tell you a story that I'm not embittered about, because
I think my ambitions are more often thwarted by a general
mindset than any one particular person.
at Vertigo, Axel Alonso was interested in a hip hop/blaxploitation
property that Kyle Baker and I had originally pitched Vibe
magazine as a serial, but they'd cold feet. Axel loved it,
and I did a formal pitch to do it with Kyle, and Karen Berger
approved it. So then it came time to discuss terms, and I
went in to talk to Karen and she offered me not a lot of money,
I think it was 12 grand advance for a 160-page graphic novel,
$75 per script page. I asked if she couldn't come up in the
price, but Karen explained I'd no track record in comics so
DC didn't want to take a greater gamble, also given how weird
the project was for them.
you, at this time I was really hurting for money, but 12 grand
wasn't going to make a significant difference to me. So I
said to Karen, look, why don't we say screw my advance and
I'll take it out of the back end, and then DC wouldn't be
risking anything. But in exchange for that, what Kyle and
I wanted was to retain those rights to exploit our property
in ways that didn't compete with DC's licensing. We wouldn't
do T-shirts or statues, that kind of stuff, but we wanted
to do clothing licenses, or a hip hop cd "inspired" by our
book. Things that DC had no mechanism in play - nor real interest
- to market.
got to iron out the licensing issue, because Karen got back
to me and told me that I couldn't defer my advance: "Finance
says they can't do it." And I said, "Look, tell me they don't
WANT to do it, I can accept that, but don't tell me that they
can't." Because I could accept that I wasn't a big enough
deal for them to alter their policy - to them, it'd be an
unnecessary headache, that maybe they'd do for Frank Miller,
if anyone. And then Karen said an amazing thing: "Besides,
we want you to take the money, because the book will probably
never earn out."
lies the fundamental difference between a publisher and a
properties factory, and it's an important one to consider.
I was interested in making money. To DC/Vertigo, my book was
a write-off, whatever the substantive interest they might've
had in it. To a book publisher, the possibility of trying
to make your author (and yourself, it should be needless to
say) as much money as possible is not an alien possibility.
Comic publishers are not really invested in making "talent"
profit - they'll even go out of their way to point out they're
under no obligation to publish work they've accepted and paid
for, the kind of thing that would encourage a freelancer to
punch out any exec in the magazine world.
said to Karen, "This a great deal for everybody but me, so
I have to say no, because I know I'll just wind up hating
all of you six months, and I really don't want that." I think
she was surprised. But honestly, it taught me a valuable lesson
about never taking a deal I wasn't happy with. The hardest
thing to learn as a freelancer is when to say no, because
you're always geared to hustle for work. And being able to
turn things down is as necessary as any creative ability.
Creator-owned aside, you've expressed some interest to work
within those existing company boundaries. With which other
company characters do you believe you might have something
Probably the more reality-based characters, but I love the
crazy science-fictional Kirby characters like Silver Surfer
and the Forever People. I don't really think about it much;
it'd be like wanting to write Sin City or Bone - it wouldn't
occur to me unless Frank Miller or Jeff Smith went mad and
asked if I was interested. I don't have any urgency to cop
a feel off other peoples' characters - it's probably my advancing
And finally, Bob, for the love of Kirby, will you ever enjoy
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