I start this blog fully willing to be humbled. Please, find the comic for me. Explain to me why my suppositions are wrong. Tell me why I shouldn’t feel annoyed. Because right now? I kinda am. But I also am running on maybe one or two days’ worth of research, here, at most, so my anger could have little basis in actual fact. But that doesn’t stop teabaggers, so right now I ain’t letting it stop me.
By now those of you who have been following Erik’s Comic Reel on CBR, or other comics to film news feeds, should be aware of the upcoming movie adaptation of Cowboys & Aliens. With people like Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford signed onto the cast, and John Favreau at the helm, it’s shaping up to be a pretty big deal.
But before I ever heard of cinematic rumblings, last year I came across and read Cowboys & Aliens in its original form (or at least, so I thought), which was as a webcomic published on DrunkDuck. DrunkDuck, if you’re not aware, has existed since 2002 as a free webcomic hosting service, providing online space and ready-made templates for just about anyone who has a comic idea and wants to sign up. You’ve got to deal with their ad banner in exchange, but it’s not a bad option for someone just starting out, and some of the comics hosted there are actually quite popular and of high quality.
Cowboys & Aliens appeared to be one of the high end residents, having come online in 2006. It was also published as a print graphic novel around that time, but the online version of the whole story, or at least its first arc, was available as recently as late 2009. As webcomics, or just comics go, it was a fun romp. Fairly stock characters and formulaic plot, but nice professional quality artwork and no shortage of delivery on the promised Cowboy vs. Alien action. Comparisons were distinctly made from the start between the Manifest Destiny of the American expansion into the West and a more galactic version of the same philosophy used by the aggressive alien empire. Naturally, once the aliens land the Paleface and the Indians have to put their differences aside to face the threat that wants to subjugate them both.
I read through all of part 1, and like I said, fun romp, even if they presented the alien language in what I considered to be a singularly annoying fashion (simple letter substitution, but you had to scroll down to the comments section for any translations… which kind of defeated the purpose of reading a comic, in my opinion). Yes, Alan Moore does stuff like that, for example in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it never seemed to get in the way as much.
I digress, however. I never moved on to part 2 at the time, so I can’t say for sure if clicking it would have just instructed me to go buy the print version. If I had, I might have considered it a bit douchey for something ostensibly supposed to be a webcomic, but I would have shrugged and moved on.
I can’t tell you if this was the case though, because just the other day I went back to check on part 2… and not only is it not there, but the first 49 or so pages I read are gone as well! Actually, no, they left up the cover and the first five pages as an “Introduction”, then it just stops. And the blog just tells you the movie’s coming out.
What. The. Fuck.
Keep in mind, the graphic novel was published years ago without them taking the webcomic offline. It’s also out of print, unless you want to pay 40 bucks or more for it on Amazon from third parties, i.e. transactions that aren’t profiting them.
I poked around, trying to figure out if I was just blind and it had moved somewhere. Nope, as far as I can tell, they just yanked the whole thing. Was this some bizarre element of the movie contract? Why the fuck would the movie studio care? From what I’ve heard of the script, they’ve all but completely discarded the original storyline, anyhow.
This wasn’t some fiat by DrunkDuck that the creators were powerless to stop, either. Up until a few weeks ago, Platinum Studios (who published Cowboys & Aliens) owned Drunkduck. Not-so-coincidentally, that ownership started in 2006. Maybe it was fiat by WOWIO, the new owners, but WOWIO used to be part of Platinum.
Also, there was a follow-up webcomic entitled Cowboys & Aliens II that’s still fully available on DrunkDuck (EDIT: or was… seems to be gone now). But it stopped abruptly in March 2008, with the last word from the creators being that they were waiting on a go-ahead from Platinum. Platinum was going through some serious financial and legal issues at the time, and although they seem to have recovered, C&A II did not.
So, at the moment I’m left with no answer but that the webcomic availability of the first graphic novel was pulled as a deliberate act, for no particular reason. And I kind of hate that. Even if the plan is to republish a new edition of the graphic novel (likely splashed with ‘Now A Major Motion Picture!’), I still hate that. In trying to find out what might have been the possible motive, my hate only grew…
The reason for that is because I dug up a couple of old blogs regarding the graphic novel, one by Brian Cronin of CBR, and another by Gilead Pellaeon of The Webcomicker. If you’re interested you can read them here and here.
Look, by accounts Scott Michael Rosenberg, the head of Platinum Studios, is actually a genuinely nice guy who loves comics. But what struck me about Brian Cronin’s blog (and Brian Cronin is very, very well informed about comics happenings) is that Rosenberg was shopping Cowboys & Aliens around as a movie screenplay for years before it ever occurred to him to leverage new media. And that’s just what seems like happened… Rosenberg had this concept, hired some professionals to make a comic/webcomic out of it, used DrunkDuck (and possibly shady Local Comic Store deals) to promote the hell out of it, and now that he finally got the movie deal he was after, well, the webcomic can apparently go fuck itself?
Was that really it? Was the Cowboys & Aliens webcomic just a glorified four year advertisement tossing out lures until Hollywood bit — at which point the “ad” was yanked, having served its purpose? Because if so, that pretty much pisses me off to no end.
So please, tell me I’m wrong.