Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flex Mentallo vs. Lucy Van Pelt

.....I know that it's off-season to be using football metaphors so soon after the Super Bowl, but the goal posts have been moved again. For those who have just walked in on this movie, you can check the last three blog posts for details. The short recap is that in the fall of 2011 DC Comics announced that they would publish a deluxe hardcover collection of the Flex Mentallo mini-series published under the Vertigo imprint in 1996. This is germane to this blog because the character Flex was created by Grant Morrison for his run on Doom Patrol in the early 1990's. Morrison turned the series' scripting chores over to Rachel Pollack, who wrote all of the issues under the Vertigo imprint. After Doom Patrol was cancelled Morrison wrote the mini-series as a self-contained story. About two years later DC announced that it would republish the story as a paperback, but legal challenges (which DC eventually won) caused plans for the book to be shelved indefinitely. Since then there have been a few sporadic announcements of their intention to finally publish it, all fruitless.

.....Over the past decade, Pollack's run on Doom Patrol has also remained uncollected and out of print (as has the bulk of the Vertigo comics featuring DCU continuity characters), but Morrison's pre-Vertigo run has been entirely reprinted as six paperbacks with the Vertigo logo. The newly announced Flex Mentallo hardcover would also (more logically) be under Vertigo according to its original solicitation last fall. However, the original projected date of publication (February 1st) has been regularly nudged since the new year began. Shortly after my previous post the Diamond Distributors website announced that the release date for direct market outlets had been changed to March 28th, putting it in line with DC's own website. General interest booksellers would sell their copies the following Tuesday (April 3rd). This week the March cancellation announcements were posted on Diamond's website and once again the hardcover escaped the axe, but today when I checked DC's website the direct release date had been changed once again to April 4th. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

.....I suppose that by the middle of next week the Diamond shipping updates will reflect the new date and non-direct retailers will similarly change theirs to April 10th. The question on my mind is whether they will be sent a replacement promotional script. At the moment the sites I checked (Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indigo) all carry the same capsule description, presumably supplied to them by DC. The description mentions that this is a Vertigo series. The sites each name DC as the publisher with the book's 'stats' (cost, length, ISBN #, etc.), which is what they do with all Vertigo trades. "Vertigo" is also how DC first categorized the book on its website where it maintains completely different pages for Vertigo and DCU trades, with each list containing both published and pending titles. At some point after I began tracking it, though, the still unpublished hardcover was removed from the DC website's Vertigo trade page and added to its DCU trade page. The significance of this is that there would be no point in doing this if the character would never see print again in new stories.

.....Grant Morrison's non-Vertigo Doom Patrol comics were reprinted as Vertigo paperbacks when John Byrne began a new Doom Patrol series in 2004. According to Byrne, he was told that the characters were to be newly introduced to the DCU as though they had never existed before, thus the Morrison run would be relegated to a non-continuity Vertigo status. The concensus seems to be that there was more money to be made in movies or animation with the concept than in print, but only if there was no baggage in the backstory. Byrne or no Byrne, they were going to be relaunched to establish any new identity that would more easily transfer to screen. There are accounts from outside of comics fandom that a movie option for the Doom Patrol name was indeed sold to someone, but events of the last five years make it hard to believe that those plans, whatever they were, will ever be realized. During the Giffen run all the previous incarnations of the DP were reintegrated into DC continuity just before the notion of having coherence across an imprint became some kind of taboo at DC. If the Flex hardcover had been originally listed with the DCU trades, then it would have been keeping with the publisher's current trend of just not caring about the distinction. But moving it after the fact was a deliberate act. Why? Why would the continuity status of a character who hasn't had an adventure in fifteen years matter to a company that doesn't maintain any sense of continuity in the books they currently publish? The two opinions I've heard is that Vertigo will be phased out as an imprint or else Flex Mentallo the character will be brought into the DCU, possibly as a supporting character or guest star in an ongoing series. Maybe Morrison and artist Frank Quitely will give him a short story of his own to contribute to DC's annual Christmas anthology, because at the rate the hardcover is going that would be a good way to tie in to its eventual release.