Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Minor Mystery Solved

The Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex volume kicked epic amounts of ass, yes, but it also ended on a curious note. Rather than continue the stories of the bounty hunter, the book concluded instead with six stories from The Outlaw, a dull, run-of-the-mill western.

But why? Why cut off the fine flow of Hex stories in the volume, especially as the book was just heading into the legendary Michael Fleisher run?

At last: an answer.

C. Elam of the blog Earth-B gives us the skinny. According to a discussion site thread, former DC Collections Editor Bob Greenberg wrote:
DC pays a royalty based on a percentage of the cover price to writers, pencillers,and inkers to all material published prior to 1976 and after 1997. For the period in between, the vouchers that were in use called for a set reprint fee to be paid. In some cases, the amount of contractually obligated reprint fees makes the budget for a proposed collection unprofitable. In those cases, DC will either scrap the project or ask the talent involved to waive the reprint fee in lieu of the standard royalty arrangement. If the parties agree, then everyone benefits.
Reprint royalties for books published between '76 and '97 are sticky? Hm...What's the last issue of Weird Western Tales included in the Hex book? Issue #33, cover-dated March 1976.

Figuring on the traditional three-to-four month gap in cover dates versus printing dates and the bi-monthly schedule of the series, that marks Weird Western Tales #33 as the last Jonah Hex story published in 1975. Thus, it was the last issue they could reprint in the Showcase Presents volume without coughing up a lot more dough or entering into contract negotiations.

Throwing in the brief story of The Outlaw was a way to get the book to sufficient size. Why pick such an underwhelming story? The Outlaw had a couple of elements in its favor. It was a western too. The story arc began and ended in six issues. It had excellent art in a few of the stories, courtesy of Comic Art God Gil Kane. And it ran in All-Star Western, the very comic that Jonah Hex came from. The Outlaw ran in All-Star Western #2-7; Hex first appeared in #10. When searching the archives for more western material to fill out the book, The Outlaw must have seemed the obvious choice. It was already in front of them.

That reprint royalties issue also explains why DC hasn't put out collections of Warlord, either. The series was a huge seller in its day and was just revived; ideal reprint material. But the series began in late '75. Oops.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess this also explains why Warlord was not included in the Millennium editions a few years ago.

Let's face it there was a lot of modern books there that didn't deserve to be. Warlord was the longest running DC title to come out of the 1970's and no Millennium edition? That's just wrong.

Mike Nielsen

5/16/2006 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Sleestak said...

I figured they didn't include Jonah Hex #1 of the first series because the new Jonah Hex 2006 series was a rewrite of it.

5/16/2006 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

So much for my dreams of Showcase editions of the Julie Schwartz-edited Superman titles...

5/16/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

There was one Warlord TPB - "The Savage Empire" - that came out in 1992. It reprinted the first 12 issues of that series plus the original "First Issue Special" story, which were originally cover-dated Nov. 1975 to April/May 1978. So this one straddles that dividing line.

5/17/2006 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

It seems unfortunate (to me anyway) that comics from that time period are so much less likely to be collected. That's when I first started reading comics, but I was a Marvel reader. It's only now that I have any interest in DC comics from that period. Trade collections would make reading those more convenient. I suppose, though, that those back issues still aren't very cost prohibitive. I wonder if there is (or will be) a higher demand for back issues from that period since they may not be as likely to be collected in paperback. Not that I'm promoting comics as an investment. ;)

5/17/2006 07:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Wickliffe said...

But they're doing those JSA and Huntress trades.

Or are both those pre-1976? I was pretty sure they were later than that....

Any one know?

5/17/2006 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger C. Elam said...

It's a case by case basis. Plus, you have to figure that the Showcase books are HUGE and the reprint fees would be as well for so much material.

There is a SHAZAM Showcase coming soon which goes through 1978. I'm not sure that proves anything though, since most of the creators of the post-1975 stories reprinted are deceased (Bridwell, Schaffenberger, Newton).

5/18/2006 12:51:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Cool stuff!

Thanks for the info, Harvey.

Chris, you rule.

5/18/2006 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

"But they're doing those JSA and Huntress trades."

I imagine the negotiations between DC and the writer, at least, of those stories went incredibly smoothly.

Thinking about other cases, though, I have to wonder how hard it would be to come up with a Showcase-only renegotiation. Much of the stuff from the time period in question is probably unlikely to be collected or reprinted any other way, and something is generally better than nothing, yes? Obviously, I'm not a creator of any of these books, but making something from these decades-old stories, and getting one's work in front of an entirely new generation of readers, seems like a pretty good thing.

5/18/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"I imagine the negotiations between DC and the writer, at least, of those stories went incredibly smoothly"

I dunno, Levitz might be pretty rough on himself.

"Stop playing games with me, Levitz! Name your figure!"

"I'll tell you mine when you tell me YOURS, Levitz!"

"ooooh...I hate you!"

5/18/2006 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Actually, I've heard Levitz is very relctant to collect his own stuff, fearing conflicts of interest.

It's a shame he won't, because his Legion outstrips the bitter nostalgia of the current Waid run.

5/18/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Please, Dan, let's be serious.

It's not because of conflict of interest. It's because the exact exchange I just described happens EXACTLY as I said!

5/18/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger C. Elam said...

Ha ha!

Levitz's issue, iirc, was that he didn't want to be seen as taking royalty money away from other creators. It was suggested at the time (ca. 2002-2003) that he donate the royalty money to ACTOR or CBLDF if he felt unseemly in taking it. I have no idea what came of that, but some of his stuff is finally getting collected.

(A 13th Legion Archive was tentatively announced in 2005 - when it makes the schedule is anyone's guess. That would include Paul's earliest LOSH stories.)

Oh, and thank you Brian and Harvey.

5/18/2006 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

"(A 13th Legion Archive was tentatively announced in 2005 - when it makes the schedule is anyone's guess. That would include Paul's earliest LOSH stories.)"

And if the Legion Archives had continued on their previous-speedy pace, wouldn't we already be on the verge of his second run by now?

Not that I'm bitter.

(For the record, Levitz's Legion run is one of my all-time favorites, and I'm also enjoying the hell out of Waid's stuff, so de gustibus, etc...)

5/18/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger C. Elam said...

Oh, and to confirm something Harvey suspected : according to Mike Voiles' excellent DC Indexes site, WEIRD WESTERN TALES #33 went on sale in December 1975.

5/19/2006 01:55:00 AM  
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