CBR covered the ”The Long Game” panel at WonderCon 2014 which covered long form storytelling and continuity in comic books. The panelists included Mark Waid, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Francis Manapul,James Robinson, Tony Daniel, and Robert Venditti. James Robinson had a lot to say about working on Starman and The Shade:
Waid asked him [Robinson] how much of a plan he had going into the title’s [Starman] 80+ issue run (including annuals and specials). “I was determined to beat Gaiman’s ‘Sandman,’” quipped the writer.
According to Robinson, DC’s editorial hierarchy in the 1990s consisted of three controlling group editors: Denny O’Neil, Mike Carlin and Archie Goodwin. Two out of the three editors had to approve any project in order for it to move forward. “I kept saying to Archie, ‘When can I have a new Starman?’” At the time, ‘Starman’ featured Will Payton as the lead character and was not fondly regarded by fans or the staff. Robinson remembered Carlin specifically saying “no one wants to read another ‘Starman’ book.” Eventually, Goodwin and Carlin hammered out a deal for Robinson to write a four-issue miniseries, eventually published as issues #0-3 of the ongoing series. What changed the title’s status? “At the end of the fourth issue, I had the two other Starmen [Will Payton and Mikaal Tomas] show up for a cliffhanger. Carlin saw it coming together and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
When Waid pointed out that market forces could change a plan like that, Robinson noted that his The Shade mini series was originally meant to be an ongoing in the wake of the sales success of the Blackest Night Starman tie-in special. “Originally, [DC co-publisher] Dan DiDio asked me to make it monthly,” he said. The two eventually agreed on the miniseries, but by then, the New 52 became the focus of the company’s attention. “Had they made ‘Shade’ one of those [ongoing] books, it wouldn’t have been the book it was,” he explained. That editorial freedom did come at the cost of sales and marketing attention. In order to secure a collected edition, Robinson had to appeal to the fans to read “Shade” monthly.
James Robinson joined Jann Robinson, and Mark Waid for a discussion on the Word Balloon podcast at the Aw Yeah Comics store in Skokie, IL with John Siuntres. During the chat when James was asked about a follow up to the recent miniseries, The Shade he expanded on his previous explanation of what The Shade/Batman miniseries would be about if he wrote it.
Well, I mean, I have to be inventive to do more. I have to come up with an idea. I mean, it didn’t sell that well. It was sort of over looked with all of the new 52 material that was out at the same time. But I have come up with another story that involves the Shade, and it would involve all of the immortal characters of the DC Universe. It would be the Shade meeting Batman and then you know the Demon, and Ra’s Al Ghul, and all these other characters, Vandal Savage. So hopefully with the Batman element it would make it commercial enough that I might get another chance at doing the Shade. We’ll just have to wait and see. At the moment I’m very busy with Earth 2 and stuff that will be announced soon that I am working on as well.
As usual the Word Balloon episode was great, there was more Earth 2 talk, and you should listen.
The Source has a preview of The Shade #12 and talks with Gene Ha and James Robinson about the final issue.
Here is what James had to say about the series.
I’ve loved writing this series; returning to an old friend yet sending him on a new journey that I feel was fresh and unfamiliar for readers and showed the character has more facets than just a shadowy resident of Opal City. I’ve had a blast, not just with the Shade but also all the new characters I’ve created and introduced along the way. I hope you enjoyed them too.
And Gene Ha talked about its origin:
A few years ago at the C2E2 comic convention in Chicago, James walked up to my table. He’d pitched a new Shade series to DC and wanted me to do the last issue, which would also be the earliest story in the Shade’s history. It would be set right before my issue of the 1997 Shade series. I’d return to Victorian England to show how the Shade became the monster we love. I blurted, ‘Yes!!!’ I think he had a longer spiel ready, but I cut him off. This comic book had to be.
CBR spoke with James Robinson about wrapping up The Shade miniseries coming to a close this month with issue #12. During the interview James talked about what he would like to do with Shade next.
In fact I have another idea for the Shade — a Shade and Batman story with little flashbacks to the past. I don’t know if DC will ever let me do it because sales on “The Shade” were not particularly high, but if I ever got the chance my idea would be to have the main story told by one artist for five issues, but then each issue is to have six pages of flashback portrayed by different cool artists. So yes, I like that form of storytelling and I would like to do it again, and if I ever got the opportunity I’d like to do the Shade again. I love writing the characters and I was very relieved after so many years away from him to be able to pick up the “quilled pen” and write in his voice again pretty effortlessly.