RAY: It’s been an interesting week. Three contestants: Lucas Barnett, Lucas Harbolt and Jim O’Riley, had to bow out for various reasons. A fourth, Tim Connelly, never turned in their final project before deadline and was eliminated from the competition.
Now we are left with 14 remaining contestants so it’s Boardroom time. The judges will ask each of the bottom three: Shane, Andrew and Ryan, a series of questions and then the judges will discuss the answers amongst themselves. We will then reveal who is going home and who will continue to play in this competition for the ultimate prize: a one shot published by GrayHaven.
We’ll start with Judge Marc Lombardi.
MARC: I have a few questions for each of you. Ryan, I’ll start with you. Why did you decide to kill off Bruce Wayne from the start?
RYAN: In Gotham‘s case, I wanted anarchy. I wanted a book that could adequately convey this sense of hopelessness, of chaos – but only as a backdrop. I wanted characters to rise above that, but I felt that, for that to happen, the establishments had to be toppled. A dead Bruce cripples Gotham, and leaves the city in a place where it has to sink or swim. I wanted the readers to feel like they were stepping into that anarchy immediately, so I had Bruce dead from the start.
MARC: What was your thinking on Savage being such a big part of this universe launch?
RYAN: Savage was a simple choice for me, because it gave the creative team an opportunity to fully build this new Universe. Through Vandal’s eternity, the team could explore all of the past, present and future events that make the New Earth what it is. A justification for the Universe, but also an exploration of it. And Vandal Savage, being a villain (for the most part) brings a critical perspective; he’s not crippled by the grandeur of Golden Age, and he wouldn’t be as nostalgic for a bygone past that he had to live through. After all, a Universe is shaped just as much (some might argue more so) by its villains as by its heroes, and I felt that Vandal Savage was the best way to explore that concept.
RAY: Ryan, the Ultimate Universe originally gave us young, modernized takes on Spider-man and the X-men. You chose to give us a middle-aged Superman and a dead Batman. What made this late-in-the-game approach appeal to you?
RYAN: I wanted the New Earth to make way for new heroes, like Miles Morales. Just as Miles was inspired by the death of Peter Parker, I wanted these new heroes to reside in a world full of the bones of their idols. An embittered Superman, to me, represented the chance to explore the conflict between a fresh batch of heroes from the modern era and the giants whose shoulders they stand on. And I felt Bruce had to go because I wanted to make Bat-Family hard. I wanted Tim to be a Batman who felt failure, felt the pressures of being a superhero in a real world, not a world populated with larger-than-life figures like Bruce Wayne and his JSA pals.
RAY: With only four titles, what about Vandal Savage appealed to you enough to give it one of your four books?
RYAN: To me, Savage meant a chance to dig in deep to the New Earth, but from an antagonist’s perspective. Vandal was around for the Golden Age. He witnessed (and indeed, was a part of) the events that helped shape this universe into what it is today, and he’ll be around to see what becomes of it. He’s faced down most of DCU, and he’s an astute enough character to be able to recall the past (helping the creative team to really shape the New Earth’s history) without coating it in nostalgia. This book would, above all, really set the tone of the Universe – a place where the most reliable history comes from the bad guy.
RAY: Given Spencer and especially Simone’s prominence on top DC and Marvel books, why did you pick them for this line when we said we didn’t want anyone who had been on a big two flagship book?
RYAN: Right up front and honest, Spencer was a result of poor research on my part. His DC work was all minor stuff (T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents and Jimmy Olsen) and I’m not the biggest Marvel reader – I saw Secret Avengers andFallout and, being absolutely in love with Bedlam, figured that cleared him as one of the “iffy” creators. Totally missed his 2013 work on Avengers and his current Superior Foes stuff.
As for Gail, I didn’t think of Batgirl as being “flagship.” And especially when you consider how DC kicked her to the curb after six fantastic issues, I thought it was safe to include her, since most of her work was Birds of Prey and a few tidbits of others here or there. I rationalized, taking DC’s poor treatment of her as a justification for putting her on the book – which, in hindsight, is little more than an excuse.
ANDREW: It’s been a long week and as this was a tough solo challenge right off the bat I only have one question for the people in the bottom three. Why should YOU get to stay in the game?
RYAN: Frankly, I didn’t take the game as seriously as I should have. I read the rules for the pitch and I came up with all of these ideas, and I pitched my 4 favorite – but that’s amateur. That’s treating this contest like a kid’s game, and not what it is – a genuine foray into an industry that deserves more respect than my pitch gave it. You set out rules for a reason, important rules, and I brushed them off with a casual lack-of-concern that’s pretty disgusting, and I apologize for that.
I want to make comics more than anything else in the world, and I don’t know if that merits my staying in the game, but I’ll say this: if the board doesn’t fire me, this contest becomes my top priority. I want to see this through the end, and I want to prove that I’m worthy of GrayHaven, and of the industry. I want to see my ideas fleshed out, drawn and colored and made real, but to do that, I need to step it up. Play every challenge the way its meant to be played, pour over every email, and, especially once teams are formed, hang on every word. Communication is key.
If the board will still have me, it gets my 110%.
ANDREW: Andrew, same question to you. Why do YOU deserve to stay in the game?
ANDREW: I know I deserve to stay, because I believe I have a lot more to show. I think I took this challenge easier than I should’ve, which cost me, and I’m not going to let that happen again. I needed this foot in the bum, to show me that I think I was a little cocky, going for obscure rather than safe. I’m up to the challenges that come from now on, and I think that if I bombed out now, I’d be more disappointed in myself for not doing better. I really hope you keep me on, as the only way I can go from here is up!
RAY: Andrew, with the rich global network of DC heroes at your disposal, what about the likes of Ambush Bug and Wildcat appealed enough to you to give half your line over to them?
ANDREW: I think I can answer these two questions together. The four characters I chose, are characters that I enjoy, and the ones I thought I could do the most interesting take on. I’m a fan of the quirky characters (my favourite hero of all time is Moon Knight). Sales never entered my mind, I looked at this more as if there was an “Ultimate” version of the DCU, which characters would I like to see being showcased. I made a list, and thought that these would be the stories I would like to see/tell. I guess that’s maybe where my pitch didn’t stand out in the way I hoped. By selecting the above characters, I had hoped that my pitch would stand out because I DIDN’T use Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and other JL members. I thought that most people would use at least 2/3 of the Trinity, plus a GL or Flash.Wildcat and Ambush Bug to me, are characters that have a lot more room for interesting stories to be told. I think Wildcat has a lot of potential as a character (maybe not as a Were-Cat), and is one of the most under-utilised characters in the DCU. I thought the reality angle of Ambush Bug would be fun, especially because the other three titles were going to be pretty dark in themselves. I think that going by what I would like to read, rather than what would sell did hurt me in the feedback.
RAY: Batman is traditionally one of the most down-to-Earth heroes in either company. Why did you decide to switch it up and give him powers?
ANDREW: I chose to give Batman powers for a couple of reasons. It helped to fit him in with the Animal Man/Wildcat crossover, but also, I’d like to see how Bruce would deal with not being human. We’ve seen him take on monsters, assassins, cyborgs, all sorts of villains, but only as a man. With him now having powers, I would be very interested to see where and how he changed. I love Batman as a character, but sometimes I even find the detective schtick to be a little overplayed.
RAY: This is a universe with a very specific focus and direction. Do you see a place for characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash in it?
ANDREW: I do, but again, as I said above, I assumed most people would pick these characters, and I wanted my pitch to stand out because of the characters I pitched (which it did, just not in the way I hoped). I’m not a Flash or Superman fan (sorry). I’ve only read small amounts of both Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. I wanted to work with characters who books I have gone out of my way to look for, whose stories I think still haven’t been told. People who don’t even read comics know Superman and Batman’s origin stories. I wanted to come from somewhere different.
RAY: What did you think was the best part of your pitch and why?
ANDREW: I think my Animal Man pitch was probably my best. It is already a subject I am passionate about, animal rights and also being vegan. I love the character of Buddy Baker, but changing him to an angry loner was flipping it from the family man we all know and love. Travel Foreman had already worked on the book earlier in the Jeff Lemire run, but using Matt Miner, a man who has the same ideals as me, but on a grander scale, I think, was perfect for a book like this. Matt could delve even further into the animal rights/rescue part, with first hand experience.
BEFORE WE COULD CONTINUE WITH THE NEXT QUESTION, A BOMBSHELL DROPPED IN THE BOARDROOM AS SHANE STEPPED UP TO THE MIC.
SHANE: Hey, guys! Thanks to the Grayhaven editors for their time and efforts in review of my proposal. It’s an honor to be part of the Grayhaven Apprentice. However, rather than waste anyone’s time in the board room, I think it’s best if I bow out at this time. This Friday, I finalized a contract with a small, indie publisher to write and develop an original limited series of my own creation (one separate from my Game of Horror Kickstarter), and it would be wrong to for me to stand in the way of the other two potential up-and-comers. Since my self-promo was mentioned, I thought I’d mention in return that novelist and comics scribe Charlies Huston (Moon Knight, Wolverine) once told me that “no one will work as hard for you as you yourself.” Also, just the this week, Neil Gaiman tweeted of Spike Lee that he’d “Gone to Kickstarter to fund his film. He’ll get a lot of flak for it. (But) His film will get made.” To my fellow bottom-threers, I say don’t beat yourself up about it, too bad. I read not long ago where a comics news correspondent who once trounced critical darling Matt Kindt ultimately retracted his early statements. To everyone else, in all humility / for what it’s worth, I’ll offer the best tip I ever received when I began my writing career: Read outside your genre (which, in this case, would be comics in general). Otherwise, you’ll bring nothing new to it.
Thanks again to Grayhaven for this opportunity. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart as the publisher of my first, true comics work. Best of luck in boardroom and the rest of the challenge!
RAY: Shane, we accept your resignation, and best of luck with all future projects.
So we come to Andrew and Ryan. Both of you made some big mistakes, mistakes that could have easily been firing-worthy. But you both took a very measured approach in the boardroom, acknowledging your mistakes when you saw them, and defending controversial ideas when you believed in them. Most importantly, however, you both gave the very clear impression that you want to stay in this game. And in a week where we lost four people before the challenge was even submitted, we don’t want to knock anyone out who is ready to compete.
Andrew, Ryan, you’re both safe. You can rejoin the rest of the contestants. We’ll post the details for team assignments and the next challenge later today