Friday, September 4, 2009

Slaves of Mickey

On Monday, the news broke that the superhero publishing giant Marvel was acquired by the multi-media Disney corporation, spreading speculation all over the entertainment industry. With no concrete news about the fate of the best selling American comics line, it's interesting to note that the one definite statement might first come from their biggest rivals, DC comics. Themselves owned by Time/Warner, the status allows the company to experiment with other types of storytelling, mostly through the 1993's controversial "Vertigo" imprint.

In many ways a successor to Marvel's 80s "Epic" line, the DC division has been defined by groundbreaking work from some of the business' strongest writers. As a veteran among them stands Grant Morrison, whose "Sebastian O" and "the Invisibles", had the distinction of being the first mini and ongoing series commissioned for "Vertigo". A long-time cult-writer, he has none the less achieved his greatest commercial success after leaving DC's "JLA" to work on the "New X-Men" in 2001. The Marvel series occupied most of his time, but at the time he still managed to finish scripting "the Filth", his spy microcosm of a comic to be published by "Vertigo". Following the termination of his contract with the X-office, in 2004 he returned to the imprint with three different projects. Out of them, only "We3" was hinted at in his former superhero ongoing, but it was in another that Morrison really poured out all of his thoughts on working for Marvel. Not only that, but Cameron Stewart pencilled "Seaguy" ended up being a commentary on the genre, the industry itself, life and much more, proving as complex a work as "the Filth".

Yet, Morrison's superhero fans by and large ignored the book, projected to be the first in the planned trilogy of minis featuring the character. Hence, it was only in 2008, after having provided DC with two concurrent superhero events, that the company decided on following up the initial "Seaguy" three-parter. Thus, not only did the second mini-series "Slaves of Mickey Eye" see print, but it was already announced that the third one has been green lighted. Despite the writer's increased profile, "Seaguy" once again sold at stunningly low levels compared to "Batman RIP" and "Final Crisis", but the publisher decided to stick to their plans. This means that the project's concluding mini-series has a definite slot in the publishing, despite one again forcing the fans to endure an extensive delay. Interestingly, in light of the current events, the schedule provides the chance for the creators to be more topical than ever with their signature work.

Because "Seaguy" is perhaps the only series that directly deals with superhero comics as cogs in the corporate machine, illustrated by no less than a Disney-inspired amusement park iconography. Of course, adding the commentary on the re precautions of the Disney/Marvel deal would still seem tacked on if the comic itself hadn't already dealt so thoroughly and openly with very similar ideas.

In fact, having such a deeply-layered meta fictional story, with a particularly convenient picaresque imagery at the surface really seems to provide enough ambiguity to justify just such an approach. And it wouldn't necessarily involve a complete rewrite of Morrison's scripts. It's entirely possible that the visionary writer could manage to insert the topical nods at such a late stage as that of tweaking the dialogue to better suit the finished art.

In any event, "Seaguy eternal" seems like a much more contemporary project than it would have been had it completed in 2004. When finally collected in it's entirety, it may well prove to be a seminal commentary on Marvel in the last decade, with the superhero industry in tow. Which is just what Morrison and Stewart imagined it would be when they set out to work on it all those years ago.

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