February 8, 2009

I wuz robbed by comics geeks!

This weekend is New York Comic Con. I am not attending, never have, though every year I swear next time I will. (It's one of those things.) I used to be a huge comics geek, though I did overdose on comics conventions when I was in high school, and I gave up reading them almost entirely several months ago. But next year, definitely.

I still borrow paperback compilations of comics from friends, and I recently completed the entire run of the critically acclaimed Y: The Last Man, the story of a young man who is the only survivor of a mysterious plague that wipes out every other male human on earth. It was very well done, but my reading of it was tinged with a bit of regret, even annoyance. You see, it was my idea.

Not really. But sort of. Possibly.

About eight years ago, I was somewhat friendly with a fellow named Kevin Maguire, a professional comic book artist. In fact, he was responsible for one of the most iconic comic covers in history. This:Pretty cool, right? I was in an improv class with this guy, and one night, postclass over drinks, I discovered he was this guy whose work I'd drooled over in junior high. Only in New York, kids.

We became somewhat friendly; he was very nice, very mellow. Eventually, we drifted apart, though we recently became Facebook friends, so I'm sure we'll be bestest buds ever of all time before you know it.

But backtrack: During our friendship, one night, we sat idly on my rooftop, having a drink and enjoying the Manhattan skyline. Being a virulently raging comics geek, and fancying myself for a possible career in writing comics stories, I was throwing at him all my various ideas, especially Elseworlds concepts. ("Elseworlds" stories denoted DC Comics mucking around with their characters in "alternate" contexts: Superman in Arthurian England, Batman fights Dracula and permanently becomes a vampire, and so on. Fun.)

I told Kevin what I considered a particularly potent idea: a world in which only women became superheroes. What if, for whatever reason, the gamma rays, the secret formulas, etc., that make ordinary people into supercharacters in the comic book world affected women only? He declared it an interesting idea, our evening ended, and soon after, we lost touch.

Several months later, I found this at a comics store:
A plague kills every man on earth, except Superman (Kryptonian DNA, naturally). The female superheroes try to keep things together, while the world holds its breath that Supes and Lois Lane can produce a child. And guess what? It was drawn by Kevin Maguire! And not written by me!

Was I mad? Not really. I had no real legal claim, and Kevin actually acted on the idea, whereas I just sat around blabbing about it. Besides, the comic kind of sank like a stone. I think I once tried to milk sympathy out of my erstwhile friend by sending him a spec script about Batman fighting a serial killer, but I never heard anything back and moved on. (These days, the idea of writing a comic book has lost almost all appeal. Editing one, however…)

Anyway, several years later, the conceptually similar Y: The Last Man, also published by DC, appeared, and began reaping oodles of popular and critical praise. I was reminded of "my" JLA story. Still, it was written and drawn by completely different people, so there was almost certainly no direct link to JLA: Created Equal (especially considering that the idea of gendercide is not exactly fresh with the morning dew; Mary Shelley tackled it 180 years ago).

But, I stand by my belief that the JLA story was my idea, and like to tease that Y is indirectly my doing. I really should go to Comic Con, with a bullhorn, and loudly declare to the world that I am personally responsible for Y: The Last Man. I'll annoy the geeks to no end, get myself thrown out, win the momentary enmity of DC Comics, a company I idolized in my youth. Next year, definitely.

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