The Night Nurse is a great character.
Most people here might be aware that I worked on Deadpool for, I think, five issues, and then moved over to the Nearpool book, Agent X. Some might be aware that I wrote four issues of the Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer. Fewer still might know I wrote an X-men Unlimited story with art by the great Kevin Maguire. And I'm sure some guy in Siam knows I wrote a page of the HEROES book Marvel put out after 9/11.
But there might be a couple things people aren't fully aware of.
First, I enjoyed my time at Marvel a lot. I read a lot more DC books when I was a kid, so working at Marvel was all about exploring. It was fun to find out about the Marvel Universe.
There were two other Marvel books that I was asked to write, that I remember. I believe I was informally asked to write WITCHES (I think it was called that), some Sex In the City style book about Marvel sorceresses that had been passed around a LOT.
I had a great time at Marvel, especially at first, working with one of my favorite editors, Michael Marts, who I am fortunate to finally get to work with again on Birds of Prey (he oversees the Batman group).
One downside was this weird tic that Bill Jemas had. Now, I'm not gonna bash the guy. The truth is, in the few times I met him, he was really great with me and had some cool ideas. I give him a lot of props for always wanting to try things--he didn't seem to worry about criticism, which was kind of awesome. OH! I forgot, I also ghost wrote a couple humor columns for Bill (which he tarted up into his own voice and paid well for!).
So the point of that is, I got along well with him. And a lot of his let's-try-THIS-insane-thing attitude was really needed at the time, and I admired that. I didn't know him WELL, but my experiences with him were good, so keep that in mind, because he had one thing that was driving all the writers crazy that apparently they were afraid to tell him.
He had this habit of...he would see something on television or in a movie, and come in the next day and want it made into a comic. I don't mean he saw a movie and wanted to adapt it, I mean he would watch a show and the next day, he would want the same set-up.
Only Iron Man would be in it.
He saw some show he liked, and decided that's what the Fantastic Four should be. Or he saw Buffy and wanted Bloodstone to be a girl who killed monsters, or whatever, on and on.
Now, I want to stress, it wasn't theft...he didn't lift the ideas straight or ask the writers to do that. I think he was trying to make the superheroes less similar, to give them something that was already proven in pop culture. Thus, a few Marvel books at the time referenced stuff that was already a little obsolete. And some books were thick with this approach, like the MARVILLE book, where the inside jokes were so inside no one got them. I remember one book was going to be Sex and the City but I'm not sure if that ended up being Witches or something else. Timeline is fuzzy for me.
Again. Liked Bill, not calling him a thief. Several writers have said he was instrumental in shaping the retooling of some very successful books, and he was a big help with my stuff and sent a couple handwritten notes of encouragement, so I got along really well with him.
But he had apparently decided that Buffy was something Marvel should be doing, and I've kidded about this a lot, but somehow, the notion got told to separate editors, and I'm told at one point, they had THREE different books that were supposed to have a Buffy vibe, three different female monster killer books being created at once. Yikes!
One was Bloodstone, which has been revealed long ago that I did an uncredited semi-rewrite on for issue one over two great writers who REALLY didn't need it. Another, I can't remember, and finally, there was Night Nurse.
They asked me to write this book, Joey Q did, and he had a lot of ideas to make it not so similar to Buffy, and I was really looking forward to it. It was going to be very naughty and dark, and a lot of fun. And Jill Thompson was going to draw it. It would have been a drive in movie, part medical drama and part crazy sexy horror film... (continued)
Now, I had never seen an episode of Buffy. I didn't know the reference. But in my newbie's arrogance, I didn't want to imitate another thing that already existed.
So I wrote out my notes, and I just went balls out crazy. It was very Secret Six, except it was for their mature line so it was even naughtier. And I strayed far from Joey's original concept.
The editor loved it, he was really excited.
Joey and Bill were not. They didn't like it at all. It was too far from what they had asked for.
So I said to my editor, do I rewrite all this?
He said no, I'll fix this, go to script, do it exactly as in your outline.
So I did. And I was pretty happy with it.
And then my editor quit.
He left. And suddenly, I'm standing there, brand new to Marvel, with a script that looks like a big FUCK YOU to my bosses who have never been anything but nice and supportive to me, and the guy who told me to do it is GONE.
Unsurprisingly, Joe and Bill hated it. They liked the character work, they liked the dialogue, but they thought everything else blew donkey chunks.
Joe called me a few days later to cancel the book entirely.
I didn't want to throw the editor under the bus, so I was upset (I actually cried), and I figured, well, that's it, my comics career is over, it's back to doing perms and acrylic nails.
Now, again...I don't blame Bill or Joe one bit. They asked for something very specific, and because I'd been told it was okay, I delivered something completely different. I didn't know any better. But I was really upset, I thought the whole thing was unfair, and yadda yadda yadda, bitch moan complain.
Looking back, I should never have gone forward without making sure that was what the powers that be wanted. Editors come and go, even great ones (and this WAS a great one, not trying to pick on him). But I had a choice to either write what was asked for, fight for something different, or quit amicably.
Writing exactly what they DON'T want is not an option.
Anyway, it's water long under the bridge but it does show how easily a project can be keelhauled unexpectedly. And here's the bit I have never told anyone until now.
I lost that script ages ago. For a long time, I thought it was a hidden treasure. I asked Joe about buying back the idea so I could publish it myself. I figured once people saw it, the sheer genius of it, it would be quite a celebrated bit of fiction.
But the last few years I've come to a realization.
I think it may have been a piece of shit.
Seriously. I was new to comics writing and this was a VERY ambitious piece in some ways, a medical drama set in a hospital with lots of characters and unusual layouts and lots of sex and violence and humor and an undead orderly and HEY that all sounds pretty good, but in fact, I'm pretty sure I wrote an amateurish piece of pretentious slop and didn't realize it until years later.
I think back on the setup and it seems way too sit-com-like. The main character was not believable. The doctors were not convincing. The monsters seemed like jokes that went on too long. It was funny, I'm pretty sure it was still funny, but the drama and the horror, those things didn't work at all.
Lately I've wondered what would have happened if that HAD been published...would I still be writing comics now?
Don't know. But maybe not.
So thanks, Joe and Bill.
I don't remember much. I know I was asked to write the Punisher (yep! Sounds weird but it would have been fun).
Someone asked about me doing a Spider-man story, but I can't remember what for.
I think that's it. Still regret not taking Punisher, even for a while.
(1) I'm sure you could've mentioned the bit about the editor without seeming like you were throwing him under the bus. Maybe you could have done it in a really nice way, chalked it up to miscommunication, I don't know. That sucks that it all fell on you.
You were just unlucky Bill Jemas never saw Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom.
Cos what you have described sounds kinda like that, but funny.
Great story! But I would not be so sure that your intended comic was "slop". If the editor - whom you've said was a "great" editor - really liked it, then it could not have been that bad. Unless, of course, you're talking about the final script and not just the basic outline. Even so, the idea could not have been that bad.
I'm a big Buffy fan from way back (except for Season 7, which I hate, and parts of S6, which was when the precipitous slide in quality began). It's interesting to hear about how much imitation it inspired, or at least how many attempted imitations it inspired. I don't know anything about Bloodstone, but I do remember "Witches" coming out - I've got it somewhere. It was not very good. It had more of a "Charlie's Angels" feel to it, though, not "Sex in the City". The premise had to do with Dr. Strange training three sorceresses to fight some particular demonic force.
Anyway, thanks for the insight into the comic biz.
How did you pull out of this one? After the book was cancelled and you thought your comics career was over, what happened to turn things around? Did the Marvel people call you again and let bygones be bygones, did you exaggerate how upset they were, or is that when your career at Boingo and DC got off the ground?
Last edited by ShaunN; 08-01-2010 at 10:13 AM.
I remember an issue of Generation X, which predates the Jemas era I believe, where M basically became Buffy.
It's weird, because fandom always forgets how little of an audience Buffy actually had. I think dvd has been its salvation.
Oh and Once More With Feeling Live could have been our generation's Rocky Horror, but Fox shut it down.
How did I pull out, good question!
Well, when a man and woman love each other very much, but don't want to feed any drooling carpet crawlers, what they do is...
Ah, okay, here's what I THINK happened. Agent X was a big success, it jumped up like forty chart positions from where Deadpool had been, and when I left, there was a surprising outcry. People got really upset and let Marvel know. Now, I left. I wasn't fired. My editor had PLANNED to fire me at San Diego Comicon (to which Marvel had invited me, my first time), but the response at SDCC made him change his mind (this wasn't the great editor I mentioned, a different guy I had a LOT of problems with).
So I left, and Bill was fired during that time. Which left Joe open to things he might not have been open to before. Joe and I had stayed friendly, I never blamed him and I didn't go online and badmouth Marvel. The truth was, NOW I think it was the editor's fault, but at the time, I felt completely responsible for the Night Nurse fiasco. I just didn't know any better.
But it was clear that Agent X wasn't doing great, even with some great creators. They told me they were canceling the book...that's a story in itself.
It goes like this. Bill was mad at Rob Liefeld, I think, for something that Rob had said. Remember, most of this is second hand. Between that and marketing, they decided to reboot some books and put X in the title, Soldier X, Agent X, and that book with Doop in it that escapes me at the moment.
I wasn't crazy about it especially because they insisted I kill Deadpool (I left a loophole, hooray!). But it was a success...the other books lost their extra reboot sales right away but we didn't. Then I left and it tanked fast (despite two AWESOME issues by Evan Dorkin that were crazy great).
Then they decided to to cancel the book. When I asked why, they said, "they didn't like the name," like it was MY idea. I always found that funny. I hated that name for a long time!
But the BIG factor was that Fox sued Marvel for selling a tv series with X in the title. Fox said it created confusion with the X-men films. So Marvel dropped all their books that had an X in the title because they couldn't be licensed. Which, if you think about it, is perfectly understandable, but at the time seemed surreal since that's WHY they came up with the name!
But a new editor came on board Agent X, Marc Sumerak, I think, and he was a fan of the series and a really nice guy, and he asked me to come back and finish the book properly, and Joey agreed, and it went over really well.
Somewhere around that time, I was offered Birds of Prey, and I hesitated for a couple big reasons (not wanting to be thought of as only a 'chick' writer, mainly). But the editor was awesome and Barbara was my first hero and I took it, and it was a nice success and I guess the short story is, I lucked out.
But that thing with Agent X, inviting me to come back, is why I have never had any bad feelings about my time at Marvel. That was a VERY classy thing to do and I have always appreciated it. I love DC, it's my home, they treat me really well, but that doesn't mean I dislike Marvel. I am delighted with their success and it makes me happy that so many of my friends had a big part in that.