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Friday, November 16, 2007

Highwaymen "Correction" -- I made somewhat of a misstatement the other day in my year-end wrap-up, saying Wildstorm's Highwaymen had been canceled. Not that I was the first person to state this, but since I also pointed out how mediocre and unimpressive a comic Highwaymen was, I got the writer's attention. Of course, even he has already gone on record explaining that, while the initial arc may always have been planned for five issues, if it didn't suck, there would have been more:
A fella could ask himself, "Why?" Not, "Why isn't Wildstorm going to do another arc worth of Highwaymen stories." I know why. Because it didn't sell. We moved a hair under 10,000 copies of issue #1. At the time, we were told that was as good a number as one could expect for a book about two characters no one had ever heard of, created by three guys no one had ever heard of. But issue #2 took a 40% dive—which would be fine if we were a movie; that's considered a pretty good hold in week two. However, we're not a movie. And it's not enough to warrant doing more. I get that. So, the question is, "Why didn't it sell?"

Of course, Planetary, which Highwaymen kind of desperately wanted to sort of be, when it wasn't aping The Authority (specifically Frank Quitely's bloated-but-presidential Bill Clinton talking to the protagonists via high-tech), was also about characters no one had ever heard of and created by a mostly unknown creative team. And it was one of the best things Wildstorm ever released. It's also largely why Highwaymen failed; it called too much attention to its "inspirations" (government conspiracies investigated by a team led by a white-haired guy in a white suit, hello!) not to beg comparison in the minds of its readers.

But in all fairness, as a completely fair blind taste-test, I left Highwaymen #1 on a table in my house, where either one of my children -- both of whom love good comics -- could easily find it, read it, and ask for more. Possibly based on the cover, about which a fellow critic privately told me "you can tell right from the cover you're getting watered down goods," neither of my kids -- who again, like good comics and are willing to give just about anything a chance -- ever even bothered to pick it up, never mind ask me to get them more. Which I would have, if they asked, because my policy is to buy any age-appropriate comic for my kids that they ask for. I'm just a good dad (and good comics evangelist) in that way.

In short, don't blame me because your comic got canceled wasn't good enough to continue past a limp, initial story-arc -- blame yourself. Or blame Warren Ellis, John Cassaday and Laura Martin, if you must deflect the blame that is so obviously yours and yours alone.

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Blogger Johnny B said...

While I didn't think Highwaymen was any sort of landmark in comics or anything, I thought it was entertaining in a modest sort of way. I think if Bernardin and Freeman had been given an artist that had a little more of a distinctive style (and yeah, that really hurt the covers, watering down that all-important first impression), it might have been even better.

I can't say I agree, though, with the comparisons to Authority and Planetary- those books are a whole different sort of thing altogether. Perhaps they were looking for a similar tone (something just about every recent Wildstorm book has been guilty of), but the larger-than-life, cosmic space operas of the former and intricate examinations of and revisionist looks at several decades' worth of literary characters that the latter concerns itself with are worlds away from the Bourne Supremecy/Tom Clancy-style would-be espionage thriller that Highwaymen wanted to be.

Again, on a modest level, I though they succeeded in providing a decent enough book. Wouldn't have minded seeing more, especially with a different artist. However, given today's horrific marketplace, the results they got were not surprising. I hope that Bernardin (especially) and Freeman can move on and surpass it in their next creative effort.

16 November, 2007 08:33  
Blogger Rob S. said...

The Authority & Planetary?

I don't see any sort of similarity there at all.

I agree with Johnny B -- it was more of a spy/action thriller like Bourne or 24. I thought it held up pretty well on that level, but I'm not surprised it didn't set the world on fire, given the market.

But if it's among the worst books you read in 2007, you had a charmed year.

18 November, 2007 15:58  

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