Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Comic Book Babylon"

Ohhhhhh, I'm going to get so killed for posting this, but it's a slow day so what the hell?

One of the many forms my Goodbye To Comics memoir took was a fictional book a la "Primary Colors" called "Comic Book Babylon." It wasn't an adaptation of "GTC" but rather a novel/graphic novel set in the comic book industry with tons of intrigue. I was steered in this direction as an alternative to "GTC" because I could write something very raw but not have it be about real people. I was told to make it like "The Devil Wears Prada," except no Prada.

That said, I've edited out some things from this proposal. Also, the character of Darius Roy, while bit of a pompous individual, does not sexually harass Mary Ann (I've cut the characters involved with that and that part of the storyline out of this posted outline). And of course, all similarities to persons living or dead are coincidental, yadda.

Also, please keep in mind that this outline was "shaped" by persons who were not necessarily me. So it's got that "Hollywoody" veneer. Also, it wasn't a publisher that worked with me on this, but more like "agenty" types.

Without further ado, here's...

Comic Book Babylon

"What Happens In San Diego, Stays In San Diego"


HIGH CONCEPT: "The Devil Wears Prada" set in the comic book industry

An expose of the politics and intrigues behind the legendary publisher "Venture Comics" -- as seen through the eyes of Mary Ann Samson, assistant to Venture's editor-in-chief Darius Roy.

How what we think we want most may turn out not to be the best thing for us.

"Comic Book Babylon" works on two levels. One, as a scandalous "Behind the Music" type tale of the darker side of the comic book industry that both fans and the larger market will enjoy. And two, as a "David and Goliath" tale of a young woman fighting office politics and ultimately sexism in pursuit of her dreams.


MARY ANN SAMSON: Mary Ann is a perky, naive go-getter fresh out of college who gets her first big break working for Venture Comics's new Editor-In-Chief Darius Roy. A lifelong comic book fan, working for Venture is like a dream come true. But her Pollyanna attitude is severely tested by Darius's Machiavellian handling of the company and the increasingly sexist storylines of its comics.

DARIUS ROY: Darius Roy is an egotistic, Donald Trump like personality whose only concern is the bottom line. Taking over the reigns of Venture from old-school company president Werner Garrison, Darius's main goal is to shift the company from kid-friendly capes-and-tights fare to grim and sensationalistic "adult" storytelling.

WERNER GARRISON: Werner is an old-school comic book fan who gives the reins to the Venture Comics empire to firebrand Darius Roy in a last-ditch effort to save his company and generate new revenue. He is caught in a crisis of conscience when he realizes that while Venture's comics under Darius do indeed sell better, they are morally questionable.



Mary Ann Samson has dreamt of working in the comic book industry ever since she was a little kid. So when she gets a job fresh out of college as assistant to new Venture Comics Editor-In-Chief Darius Roy, she feels she is on the road to fulfilling her dreams.

Darius has just been appointed to his job by Venture president Werner Garrison, as a last-ditch effort to raise revenue and please their investors. Darius Roy singlemindedly sets out on his mission: to change Venture Comics's reputation from kid-friendly producer of capes-and-tights yarns to publishers of grim and gritty "adult" superhero comics and thus compete with their main rival Gear Comics. To this end, he initiates sweeping changes to all the Venture comic books as well as firing any staff that disagrees with his approach or is deemed too "old-school."

While Mary Ann initially enjoys her job and is dazzled by the idea that she's helping produce the comics she loved so much as a child, she starts to become disillusioned. The content of the Venture titles become more and more violent and risque, and the portrayal of women increasingly sexualized. Mary Ann timidly raises some objections to Darius but he explains to her that this is the "Real World" -- sex sells, big fish eat little fish, and the sentimental and nice get left behind.


...Mary Ann is filled with self-loathing, gets really drunk, and spends a good deal of time in the washroom vomiting.


...Mary Ann decides to take out her frustration by writing a short story called "Comic Book Babylon" which allows her to vent on everything that has just happened. She has no intention of publishing it, but e-mails the text to a friend as a lark. Within a week the e-mail has bounced back to her with thousands of CCs on it. Her friend forwarded "Comic Book Babylon" to a friend, and the whole thing spread like wildfire

Post-Script: Mary Ann ended up staying in the industry writing women-friendly comic books. Werner regained control of his company after the "Comic Book Babylon" episode and retconned the rape of Captain Virtue's girlfriend out of existence. And as for Darius Roy? Well, he's still making lots and lots of money.

CONCLUSION: If you had to choose between material rewards and doing what you knew deep in your gut was right, what would YOU do? That question is ultimately at the heart of "Comic Book Babylon," using one of America's most beloved and enduring forms of entertainment as its backdrop.


postscript: after several very enthusiastic sessions regarding this book proposal, the people I was working with suddenly changed on a dime and told me that it wouldn't be advisable to go ahead with the project, because even if I made it fiction, people would know who I was writing about. there was also an admittance of being friends with someone very connected to the story -- which made me flabbergasted that they wanted to go approach me with this book in the first place! but rather than just saying they had cold feet -- which given the circumstances I understand -- I was told that "Goodbye To Comics" was "not a story people would have any interest in," and was unsellable. I was encouraged instead to do "nicer" projects. And that -- that was annoying and a waste of my time.

But live and learn.


  1. That sounds like a great idea, I'd watch it ;) What is your tone for this movie? Devil Wears Prada? It seems a bit darker.

  2. This would make a DAMN fine GN. I'd read it in a second and, if I owned a publishing company, would snap it up in a heartbeat. You need to find a publisher who doesn't care who they anger and isn't dependent on Marvel or DC for money or good-will.

    My only complaint (other than that you cut out some parts of the proposal) is that the ending is almost too uplifting. To be honest, given the tone you're setting in the story earlier, this ending just doesn't see possible. I like an upbeat ending as much as anyone but, in this case, I think it is a disservice to what comes before.

  3. Yeah man, I'd love to see this as an indy film. Perfect for the festivals like Sundance and such.

  4. Ah, cold feet; the bane of good ideas. The idea sounds really good. I'm sure there's a publisher out there with the balls to like it AND publish it.

  5. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Motto to everyone above. I dearly want to see this book happen. Dare I say, I think it *needs* to happen. Find a publisher with balls, they must exist somewhere (er, the publisher, not the balls).

  6. who published bendis' "fortune & glory"?

  7. thanks for the encouragement, all --

    this particular treatment was not exactly how I wanted to do GTC. But I thought it was interesting for you to read in the sense that here are Hollywoody types looking at the story and shaping it how they think it will sell.

  8. "Nicer" Hell with that noise.

  9. they wanted me to still work with them after that, but I let it go.

  10. Anonymous5:00 PM

    As someone who came to your blog because of Goodbye to Comics and has stuck around since, I think you should absolutely do something with Goodbye to Comics.

    I know that this was the Hollywoodized version, and so seems tamer than I hoped it would be - especially the end. (I think really black comedy would work well.) It feels a bit more simplistic than the story could be.

    Your story would work either as non-fiction or fiction. And I think in the fictional form, it might get a good mainstream audience. It could be a novel, movie or a TV series like Mad Men.

    The idea of corrupting a storytelling medium thought to be -- at least once upon a time, and a time that everyone remembers -- primarily for children is something that's easy to grasp.

    I hope you keep working on a comics script / screenplay / novel / memoir about your experiences. You've shown talent and flair in your blog time and again.

    And the sexism in the industry definitely needs more exposure. (I mean beyond comic book circles. I see plenty of sexism in Newsarama interviews or CBR columns.)

    Anyone who tells you the idea is not marketable is lying to you.

  11. I would pay for that graphic novel - and download camcorder footage of the movie, if they ever made one. Which they should.
    The story is not only sellable, but explores an area of popular culture so far untouched - the 'magic factory' that produces comic books. Television has been satirised by Larry Sanders and Moving Wallpaper, theatre, movies, news, radio, etcetera have been satirised by The Producers, Wag The Dog, , Howard Stern's movie, that Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy thing...
    Anyway, I'm just saying that you could develop this pitch a little and see if there are any movie people at SDCC. Can't hurt you any to network outside the comic book niche, and I think the project has a little more in the way of legs than you give it - or yourself - credit for.

  12. Make it a webcomic!

  13. Avatar would have published it in a flash.

  14. Is that the normal style for proposals?
    (I don't know, so I'm asking.)

  15. I would have totally bought that.

  16. Unsellable? What world is this guy living in? This is sell better than Watchmen 2.