DV-8: The Failed Pitch

I got my break in comics by revamping a Wildstorm comic book called "StormWatch."  The book had been born in the Image Comcs boom era, then revamped by a creator you may have heard of, Warren Ellis. After Wildstorm was bought by DC, Warren killed all the characters he didn't like, cancelled StormWatch and resurrected the characters he did like in a small title no one has ever heard of called "The Authority."  So, years later, the title "StormWatch" was just sitting there idle, begging me to use it.  So I did.  And the book sells very well, thank you and we're not being cancelled.

The original StormWatch was about a group of superheroes who worked for the United Nations doing routine superheroic missions, protecting Humanity from the evil boogeymen of the world. My StormWatch: Team Achilles was a 180º turnabout -- it was about Humanity standing up for itself AGAINST the Super Powered Beings in their midst and saying "no thanks, we can take care of ourselves... and if you don't stop being so Paternalistic towards us, we'll 'Take Care' of YOU."

After having worked for a while in the Wildstorm Universe and getting to know the backstories of everyone in it, I started looking for other defunct books which I might try and revamp. One of the ones which interested me the most was DV8, a truly loathsome book full of what I like to call Moral Retards. The Original DV8 were superpowered teenagers who killed because they thought it was funny or cool, who took drugs, had sex with one another with abandon and generally were nasty little freaks. They were the complete antithesis of a "superHERO".

Columbia's Encyclopedia defines an Anti-Hero as "the principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero’s lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man’s ambivalence toward traditional moral and social virtues." My problem with the teenages superthugs of DV8, though, derived from the fact that they weren't ambivalent towards traditional moral and social virtues, but rather they just seemed to be plain evil.


Now, admittedly, I didn't read the entire series. I made it through the first eight or so and felt that I'd seen enough. Several people told me that things changed, that the kids eventually became heroic and blahdy blah blah... but to me, this too was a bit of a cop-out. It also didn't seem to capture (to me) what makes a teenager a teenager: conflicted morals combined with an unshakable self-belief mixed with a lot of idealism. As I say in the pitch, what are the classic characteristics of a teenager:

1) Sex-Obsessed
2) Emotionally Immature
3) Self-Involved
4) No Respect for Authority
5) Physically Powerful
6) Stupid and Uninformed
7) (generally) Hyper-Idealistic

Remove #7 and you've just described the archetypal Super-Villain. It's a fine line and I planned to walk the tightrope with the new DV8 series.

Towards this end, I went to the San Diego Comic Con with an eye towards finding an artist for the book. It seemed to me that if I packaged the book and presented it to Wildstorm, it would go down easier than if I just walked in with 20 pages of typed notes and asked them to find me an artist. Once in San Diego, I walked up and down Artist's Alley, looking for an artist with a style which was new and fresh... I didn't want to retread the art or stories which had come before on the old DV8 series. That's when I met Mark Robinson.

Mark's stuff was different... I wasn't sure what people would think of it. He'd done two fill-in issues on a DC/Vertigo book called "Codename Knockout" but neither of the issues had come out yet, so he was an unknown quantity. Making things worse, Codename Knockout was a book which was fixated on cheap T&A (lots of bare-breast shots, female characters bending over while wearing only their underwear, etc.) and the constantly in-your-face sex that the script called for would make concentrating on the STORY of the book almost impossible because it seemed the need to work in crotch shot up-angles was more important than telling a good story. It was difficult to tell if Mark could tell a visual story because his storytelling would get muscled aside to force in a shot of a woman's bare breasts.

Mark assured me that he could tell a good story without panty shots, so we began discussing the DV8 book. I told him my ideas for the book and he seemed to really grasp them right off... we went our separate ways after San Diego (me to LA, Mark to Philly) and began a running email conversation which led to the script, pitch and sample pencils you see on this page. We put what we had together and shipped it off to Wildstorm, sure that they would see the promise that the book had and put us into production right away.
Unfortunately, the book ran into a few troubles: (a) evidently none of Wildstorm's new Eye of the Storm books was selling exceptionally well fresh out of the gate (including my StormWatch: Team Achilles), (b) therefore, no one at Wildstorm thought a new DV8 book would sell, (c) I was still considered "untested" as a writer in comics, (d) Mark was a total rookie, (e) there was a weird feeling towards the character of Marc Slayton at Wildstorm -- no one seemed to like him or want to use him, and (f) everyone at Wildstorm HATED the old DV8 book and so we got tarred with that brush. They declined to pick up the series. Mark and I were crushed.

Looking back, it was a mistake to call the book DV8... I was hoping to use the Name Recognition of the old book to get some cheap pop out of the sales, but it didn't do anything but hold us back... "the old DV8 had been cancelled due to poor sales... how could a NEW DV8 hope for any better?" went the company mentality. Ah well. I'm proud of the work and it was a great pitch... I'm sure that the themes I used in the book will wind up elsewhere. Maybe even at Wildstorm someday, who knows.


It just probably won't be called DV8, though. :)

-Micah Wright, February 2003
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On this page are the finished pencils for pages 1-5 and rough layouts for pages 6 & 7... Mark swears he's going to email me those other pages soon... what can I say but keep checking back?

-M

 

 

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