In the latest Legends Revealed comic, find out how Barry Windsor-Smith’s Wolverine epic Weapon X has become a graphic novel
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and fifty-eighth episode where we examine three comic book legends and determine if they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three captions. Click here for the first caption of this all-BWS episode.
Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X was always going to be a Marvel Comics Presents characteristic;
In 1988, both Marvel and DC tried something that hadn’t been tried in quite a while in the comic book industry, which was a true comic book anthology. The format used to be VERY popular, but that was back when comics were sold on the newsstand market where fans were more willing to make impulse purchases, so having a LOT of features was generally considered very appealing to the kid with a few pennies to spend on comics. As the direct market became the main way people bought comics, anthologies (and team-up books) were dropped as people were more interested in seeing books that “matted” and “matted” for the continuity of the main heroes. . Team books and anthologies aren’t very good at this stuff.
Marvel and DC, however, have both decided to release weekly anthologies in the UK comic book format of many serialized short stories. CD canceled Green Lantern Corps and gave their book, Weekly action comicsto Green Lantern as main characters whose adventures would “matter” as Marvel turned to one of their biggest characters of the period, Wolverine, for a new main story by Chris Claremont and John Buscema (that story then went leads to a solo Wolverine ongoing series).
One of the innovations of series editor Terry Kavanagh was that this series could be used to bring together the acclaimed creators of somewhat lesser-known series, so for the first eight issues of Marvel Comics Presents, Doug Moench returned to Shang-Chi to write a Shang-Chi story (and later Don McGregor returned to Black Panther for a screenplay). The full cover of issue 1 was by Walter Simonson)…
As I noted in the previous caption, while Wolverine was the original main feature of the series, the initial idea for the first 28 issues was to spin other X-Men characters (like Colossus, Cyclops, Excalibur, and Havok) in the lead. However, in the end, Sales simply didn’t deserve this approach, and so the ups and downs told Kavanagh that he should start having Wolverine as a regular mainstay. The problem with that, of course, is that Kavanagh was not the editor of Weird X-Men Where Wolverine, so whenever he had a Wolverine arc, he had to clear it with Bob Harras, who was the editor of those two comics. Kavanagh and Harras were friends, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it would later become a problem.
As I also noted in the previous caption, Kavanagh had approached the great Barry Windsor-Smith to do a short story in Marvel Comics Presents, but Windsor-Smith was more interested in doing a series (presumably a miniseries). Anyway, as I noted last time, Windsor-Smith then started working on what would become “Weapon X” on his own and handed over two completed chapters to Kavanagh. Kavanagh now, of course, had to convince Harras to allow him to present a MAJOR development in Wolverine’s life (the reveal of how he received his adamantium skeleton) not in Uncanny X-Men or Wolverine, but Marvel Comics Presents.
Somehow Kavanagh managed to pull it off, but then he faced another hurdle – the now-approved project was obviously really cool (Barry Windsor-Smith telling Wolverine’s original genre?! How cool is that?), but Marvel’s sales team thought it was now TOO cool for Marvel Comics Presents. Kavanagh was told by Marvel Editor Tom DeFalco that the project would be done as a graphic novel instead! It was too high-profile a story to make it into a bi-weekly anthology, especially since they wanted to do it on good paper, give it all the bells and whistles a project like this “deserved” ( and, of course, presumably charging a pretty penny for the end product).
Kavanagh, however, had the opportunity to make his case to DeFalco, and he pointed out that Windsor-Smith had already started working on it as a series, not a graphic novel, and, more importantly, Kavanagh had been ordered to make Wolverine the star of Marvel Comics Presentsit was a Wolverine story, if it was “too good” for Marvel Comics Presents, so what was even the point here? Was the goal now to only do “just good enough” Wolverine stories, and if they’re too good, they get published elsewhere? DeFalco, to his great credit, was won over by Kavangh’s argument and canceled plans for the graphic novel, opting instead to simply collect the story in a trade paperback as soon as possible (allowing Windsor-Smith to recolor). This happened in late 1992 (this was at a time when Marvel’s storyline collecting was still a relatively new practice, so it was a big deal)…
Many thanks to Terry Kavanagh for bringing this all together. He dropped me a line after the first caption to let me know that while the first part was mostly true, there was still more to the story, and he explained that “more” to me today. Thanks again Terri!
DISCOVER A FILM LEGENDS REVEALED!
In the latest film, Legends Revealed – Find out about the Star Trek actor who accidentally negotiated his way out of credit for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
PART THREE COMING SOON!
Check back soon for part 3 of the legends of this episode!
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