A. LEE MARTINEZ FUN FACTOID: I almost wrote an Iron Man novel.
This was a few years back when the original Iron Man movie was about to come out. Or maybe it had just come out. Little hazy on the details, but I remember that some tenative steps were taken between me and a publisher to write an Iron Man novel. It wasn’t going to be an adaptation, but rather, an original story. I even wrote and submitted an outline.
I don’t quite remember the exact details of the story I had in mind, but I know it revolved around espionage, both corporate and governmental, and attempts to recover a lost alien robot. The robot, for those who have enough of a knowledge of the Marvel universe to even care, was an inactive Kree Sentry. Basically, I imagined an Indiana Jones style story where Tony Stark has an adventure, foils the bad guys, fights the reactivated Sentry. Also, Iron Man’s love interest was going to be a Skrull spy in disguise.
The deal stalled, and I don’t remember why. Just sort of sputtered to a halt. It happens. Still, it would’ve been cool, I think.
I was also approached once to write a Brutal Legend novel. That fell apart quickly though, and I didn’t get nearly as past the tenative stages. While I wasn’t a fan of the game (how could I be? It wasn’t even out yet.), it might’ve been fun.
The near-adaptation I bemoan most though is the Heroscape novel I might have written. This one was purly my idea, and my agent even went so far as to approach the right people and express my interest. Regrettably, that interest wasn’t reciprocated. No one with the power to authorize such a thing seemed to think there was a demand for a novel based on one of the greatest board games ever. Too bad because I guarantee my Heroscape novel would’ve been amazing.
But thinking about these potential projects, I can’t say I’m disappointed that they didn’t work out. The money would’ve been nice, and while it might have been cool, it would have been work for hire with no real control over how it came out.
I’ve never really understood people who aspire to write Superman, Batman, or some other character not of their own creation. I understand doing it. I even understand enjoying it. It can be fun to play in someone else’s sandbox and enjoy their toys. But in the end, those toys will never be yours. You’re just borrowing them for a short while. Of course, if you’re an aspiring comic book writer, you really don’t have much choice.
Even more troublesome to me is the invention of an original character that you surrender all control over. Steve Gerber had this problem with Howard the Duck. He had very little control over Howard, and he only wrote Howard stories if Marvel allowed it. I’m not villainizing Marvel for that. You know the deal when you write for Marvel (or DC). Yet making that deal is usually easier than living with it.
Two of my favorite new superhero characters, Blue Beetle (DC) and Gravity (Marvel), currently languish in editorial disinterest. Blue Beetle’s comic was one of the last ongoing titles I enjoyed. After its cancellation, he was moved to Teen Titans, and as much as I wanted to like that comic, I just don’t have any interest in any of the other Teen Titans.
Gravity had a terrific debut miniseries, and then…he just sort of vanished. Gone. He’s coming back, this time in a team comic. But again, I doubt I’ll have enough interest in the rest of the team to care.
I find it tremendously annoying, and I’m just a fan of these characters. I can’t imagine being the creator behind them, having lost any creative control over them, not even being able to ensure that they will get any real exposure at all. Even worse, there’s the very real threat that someone somewhere will decide to kill or maim these characters in the service of more popular characters. Either that, or just disappear into obscurity. Either fate sounds lousy.
I’ve had a few books optioned for film, and it’s certain that however these films turn out, I’m cool with. But that’s because my characters and my stories will still exist. The movies might be very similar. Or they might be entirely different. But the books, the original characters and worlds, will still exist. No one is going to write a dark and gritty reboot of Gil’s All Fright Diner or the Mack Megton story where zombie cannibals attack Empire City. Not on my watch. Not as long as I have a say so.
Although if Marvel came to me and asked me to write a Devil Dinosaur or Man-Thing story, I’d be up for it. And if DC ever gave me the green light to write a Kilowog . . . well, that ain’t going to happen.
But it’d be awesome if it did.
Fighting the good fight, writing the good write,