Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Extremist: Credit where credit’s due. (UPDATED)

My first professional job in publishing was as an assistant editor at Vertigo UK back in 1993. It was the best job ever and I got to work with some incredible creatives. When I started, I was on a probationary period (like most jobs) and consequently, for the first three months I didn’t get any credits in the books, despite having worked on the last four issues of Enigma (By Peter Milligan and Duncan Fregredo), and the last issue of Sebastian O (By Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell). So it was a real buzz to final see my first official DC Comics credit in print in The Extremist #1. Written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Ted McKeever, The Extremist was at least 10 years ahead of its time. It discussed the nature of sex, sexuality and moral ambiguity without being titillating. No mean feat. Pete’s clever use of jumping around the timeline made for some excellently complex cliffhangers and Ted’s art (which I fortunately have a page of) was just sublime.
I finally caught up with Ted after a decade of being out of touch, and we discussed doing a deluxe collected hardcover version with extra sketches and background material. The book was creator-owned and it hadn’t been in print for over a decade—despite Ted approaching them a couple of times—so technically he and Pete had the right to shop it around to other publishers. Unfortunately, this never came to pass, but always felt the series deserved to be one of those important graphic novels that people talk about. The same way they don’t about Face (Milligan and Fegredo’s masterpiece).

So I was gutted to see when DC Comics released a collected version of The Extremist under their Vertigo Resurrected banner (worryingly implying that the imprint is now some bloated corpse exhumed for today’s ignorant readers to gawp at) last November. It was so obviously cobbled together purely so DC could retain the publishing rights. The format was just a thick comic (100 pages) with cheap quality cover (less than 200gsm for all you publishing nerds out there); they only reprinted one cover; and lost all the beautiful design panache that Ted and John Costanza had put into the original series. Plus, there are no natural breaks in the storytelling, making the whole collection unnecessarily complicated. In the original miniseries, the story jumps backwards by several weeks between issues #1 and #2, but you’d never know that from the collection, as the front pieces with the dates on have been removed, making the storytelling difficult to follow. Sloppy workmanship, Mr. Hamboussi.

Now, let's see if we can start a petition to DC to get the book the treatment it deserves, in a nice, leatherbound edition with all the covers and the extra material.

Worst of all, my credit line had been removed from the collected edition. Sigh.

UPDATE: In keeping with the title of this post, Brendan McCarthy just got in touch to ironically remind me that he had originally come up with the concept of The Extremist, "...I gave it to Pete Milligan to do with what he would... I was too busy to draw it at the time and that kinky sex thriller was going to be the next Milligan & McCarthy strip after Rogan Gosh. Pete was on a roll and ran with the idea and really nailed it (!) and then Ted then took the design into another realm. I think it could be a good, lower budget movie." I agree! So, public apologies to Brendan, and an acknowledged credit where it was due! 

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