Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flashback: Al Gordon, on v4 stuff (from 1997)

This flashback is from Steve Mohundro, part of his 1997 San Diego Convention report (if this is on the web, I can't find it; I saved it off to a file back then, so it may have come via email to a mailing list whose archives are not available any more).

Some interesting insight into how things came about in the early days of v4, as seen after the Zero Hour reboot. Steve is in all likelihood the world's biggest Kent Shakespeare fan. Here's his Legion web page.

Fresh back from San Diego, I thought I'd share a few non-spoilered (preboot) things I learned when I met former LSH writer/co-plotter/inker, TMK confidant, Kent Shakespeare's creator, Al Gordon:

HOW TMK (et Al) PLOTTED EACH ISSUE: Conference call. Al and Keith Giffen would call Tom and Mary Bierbaum (each on their own phone at their house), and they'd all discuss the issue.

"THE HAT": From what Al said he knows, this is more of a rumor than anything that was definitely planned. He claimed not to know anything more about it than just the basic concept.

THE PROFEM STORY: Al said that of all the stories they did, this one was the worst. He said that editorial mangling made it "more of a love story" but they actually wanted something even stranger. "It wasn't supposed to be just a transsexual thing," he told me. He described the story they wanted to tell as "a Vertigo story before there was Vertigo."

THE NINE-PANEL GRID: That was, of course, Keith's style, and something Al thought was a bit limiting. Al said he tried to push Keith into drawing at least a couple two-panel spreads, and that he was glad when Keith made the occasional splash page.

THE NEW CHARACTERS (KENT, CELESTE, KONO, IVY, DEVLIN): Actually, no details here, but I will eventually add tidbits about the plans for these characters, including backstory, to my website.

FURBALL AND BOUNTY: According to Al, when v4 started, Keith wanted to kill off Dawnstar and Timber Wolf, his two least-favorite Legionnaires. I believe Al said that it was he who told Keith, "You know, if you really hate them, you'd keep them alive but do something terrible to them." Then Keith told Al, "Fine, but you make these changes." So Al created the Furball persona and Bounty.

ON SUPERBOY, VALOR AND EDITORIAL DECREES: Apparently when the TMK Legion started, they had the first twelve issues all planned out. And numbers 1-3 were according to these plans. Then when they were forced to write Superboy out and try to replace him somehow, everything went awry (Al says).

And you can see that if they hadn't had to add Valor, we probably wouldn't have seen any of #4, 5, plus the retold origin, Laurel's Story and the first and second annuals in their current form. Who knows if that would have made the first year or so clearer, but it would have been different.

[Another poster later added this next paragraph:]
They weren't going to include him as in writing him into current stories - they would have included him by having the Pocket Universe retcon still be in effect (i.e., Superboy was a member of the LSH). When it was decided that Superboy was never a member of the LSH, that meant that the LSH's history was screwed and TMK put Valor in his place (ie, post Mordruverse).

ON 'THE QUIET DARKNESS:' This was Al's first writing work, so he's still pretty proud of it. He says that one of the things about the story that he's most proud of is that it has a beginning and an end, unlike previous issues of the Legion.

THE 'IT'S YOUR VERY OWN CALL FROM AL ... AND YOU'RE STUCK!" JOKE: "Oh that's just a joke Keith made up for the Ambush Bug (Nothing) Special," Al says. Apparently it comes from the fact that Keith Giffen is hard to get a hold of, and when a deadline approaches he disappears. So, Keith's house ends up getting full of "Call Al" notes. And Al says sometimes he would get Keith's wife on the phone and talk to her, instead.


Don said...

I have never been able to understand "The Quiet Darkness." If there was a beginning, an end, or a recognizable plot, you can't prove it by me.

I just tried to re-read it a month ago, and I STILL can't tell what's going on. Can somebody explain the story in a few paragraphs?

Greybird said...

Would someone tell me what Al Gordon has done recently?

So that I can buy a copy of it from the quarter bin (I hope) and spit on it?

I'd heard that Furball-and-Bounty thang earlier, but now, at least, I have a place to cite for it and a name attached to the report.

Anonymous said...

can we never ever ever ever ever have keith griffen near another legion book, characters, concept ever again please.

Michael said...

Greybird - it sounds like he was basically acting under orders from Giffen: "you make these changes". Blame it on Giffen for the concept, with Gordon on the execution of the concept (no pun intended).