Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Michael T. Unleashes Rich E.!

      Not only am I getting older; I'm getting luckier.

      Once again Michael T. Gilbert has dug into his personal files, reached across the ether and made me an offer I can't refuse:

Hi Ken!

I just remembered another unpublished DC short story. It was originally supposed to be a three-page section of Keith Giffen's 1992's very funny AMBUSH BUG: NOTHING SPECIAL. However it turned out to be too hot to print!

At the time I wrote this, the 1989 ARKHAM ASYLUM graphic novel was still making waves. Old-school Luddite that I am, I pretty much hated the whole package. When Keith Giffen invited me to contribute to his comic, (which included a roast of editor Julie Schwartz), I jumped on it and decided to do a send-off of Vertigo. In the decades since, I've found a number of their titles that I really admire, but my initial reaction was that the line was depressing, negative and pretentious. I also felt that fully-painted comics like Dave McKean's ARKHAM ASYLUM and Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's ELEKTRA:: ASSASSIN, beautiful as they were, were just hard to read.

Interestingly, ARKHAM ASYLUM illustrator Dave McKean later came to a similar conclusion, saying "overpainted, lavish illustrations in every panel just didn’t work. It hampers the storytelling."

Anyway, my idea was to do a Vertigo version of Harvey's classic kiddie comic, Richie Rich. Unfortunately after I handed it in, despite protests by my editor and Keith, some higher-ups at DC nixed my three-pager. They claimed there were worried about a possible Harvey lawsuit. Personally, I've long suspected that my Vertigo parody hit a little too close to home, but I'll let you decide.

On a technical level, I drew hand-separated color for the Rich E. Rich section, followed by full color art for the Ambush Bug part. It would have been very striking, and I always felt bad that the strip never saw print.

I guess the joke was on me!


Text and art scans by Michael T. Gilbert
 © 2011 by DC Comics
[all text and artwork is presented for not-for-profit historical purposes only and no further use is allowed or implied]

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  1. I couldn't agree more, Blam!

    Wow, indeed!

  2. Very nice, thanks for sharing this guys.

  3. As the Supreme Court had already repeatedly ruled that protection of satire over-rode copyright, and as DC has itself repeatedly had its characters appropriated for purpose of satire, there wouldn't have been much-if-any fear of law-suit. Whatever DC's actual motivation, they were almost certainly lying to you.

  4. All the thanks should go to Michael T.!

    He's the creator who kindly shared this; I'm just a conduit.

  5. Thanks, everyone! One amusing thing I should mention. I purposely did the first 2 1/2 pages in very old fashioned hand-separated color, to contrast my vision against the increasingly hi-tech methods of comic art that were taking over. I'd had some experience doing hand seps and was pretty sure my idea would work, despite the fact that I actually drew all four color plates in black & white (with notes telling the printer which color ink to be used on each plate).

    Since color proofs were pretty expensive, I decided to wait until the book came out to see if I'd correctly figured out what the colors would look like when printed on top of each other. As it turned out, it was over a decade before I finally got to see the separate pieces of the pages joined, courtesy of Photoshop. Happily, it actually worked out...even if the actual story never saw print!

  6. Forget Richie—er, Rich E. himself. The highpoint was Lotta confidently picking up Sad Sack (...and that other guy in line before him... who he?)

  7. I'll leave that to Michael to answer...

  8. I think we have a generic cop and Sad Sack!

    Best wishes,

    Michael T.

  9. nice idea, thanks for sharing...