Ten years ago or so, I developed a Young Adult Vampire comic book project with British artists Emma Vieceli and Yishan Li called BLOODY MARY. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to make this project a reality beyond the first 6 pages. So What happened? Could it come back? Let’s find out…
Projects come, projects go. The reality of the comic book business is that, just like in Hollywood, most projects are never completed. Many factors come into play. The obvious one is money. But let’s also not forget that the publishing industry is also very much “trend sensitive”. You never know what the next big thing’s going to be. And when it hits, most publishers become hungry for a certain type of projects and are ready to acquire anything in that ballpark, often regardless of quality. Walking Dead is popular? There… 10 more Zombie series on the market. And it’s not a new thing at all. In the early days of the comic book industry, publishers were throwing everything they could at readers in the hope something stuck. And when it did, competitors quickly developed similar comics to get their piece of the pie. Timely Comics/Marvel founder Martin Goodman, was an expert at this. He was monitoring the market closely and often suggested to his editors (mainly Stan Lee) what to create to get hits like the Distinguished Competition.
In 2009, I was in a tough spot. Both personally and professionally. My biggest client was tough on me. My company lost a big chunk of its business and I had to be creative to stay afloat. We were in the magazine packaging business. For you neophytes, let me explain: a publisher hires a team of mercenaries (that would be us) to create ongoing magazine titles. Advantages for the client: they don’t have to hire more people (and to lay them off if it doesn’t work). Advantage for the packager: you can work for multiple clients doing the same thing as there’s no exclusivity clause by design.
In 2004, after we were let go from our employer, my partner Xavier Fournier and myself founded a company called Full FX (FX being for Fabrice and Xavier). Full FX was designed for greatness. Costs brought to a minimum. Profit minded. It was the exact opposite of my previous company, TSC.
It started with a bang. And we had great success. But five years later, Full FX was struggling. The 2008 crisis had brought its share of changes. Our two biggest clients merged into one. A personnel change at our now almost exclusive client revealed our Achille’s heels. We partially slipped out of favor. This is where I made one of my biggest professional mistakes: I was stubborn. Instead of firing my team (we were 11 people at the time) and going back to the cost-effective model we had in the beginning, I refused to let go. And decided to become a publisher, competing with my client. We launched a bunch of kids and teen magazines, both licensed and original.
One of the original one was a Young Adult/Chick Lit title named Bella Nolita. I know, silly name. But we were in the middle of the Twilight mania and it seemed like a good idea. The magazine was a mix of news about celebrities, fashion, litterature and TV/Movies. It was an odd sauce, I admit. We labeled it: “the First Vampire Girl Magazine”. I’m still laughing about that.
In this magazine, because of our comic book DNA, we decided to produce an original story. I volunteered to write it and turned to my friend Emma Vieceli for art. I met Emma in 2008 at the Leeds Thought Bubble festival (in the UK). We’ve managed to remain friends ever since. I even hired her again in 2011 when I was a freelance editor at a publisher called Jungle Comics to draw some My Little Pony stories.
But I digress… For Bella Nolita, I created this story called Bloody Mary. It was basically Romeo & Juliet as Vampires. I was really proud of myself.
The pitch read:
Lola and Mary Price are two 16 year old twin sisters that have very little in common. Lola is your typical American student while Mary is pretty wild.
When our story begins, Mary has been MIA for a year and Lola is in Paris studying art. On a Valentine’s day, Lola meets Giovanni on the roof of the Paris’ Sorbonne University. Giovanni is handsome, attractive and char- ming. But he’s… a Vampire! That’s where Mary makes a dramatic re-entrance in her sister’s life. And she isn’t here to talk about the latest fashion… She’s been sent to turn her sister into a vampire so the House of K’plth can rule the vampire kingdom. For centuries, two vampire houses have fought to rule the vampire kingdom. But since 1476, the fight has been taken to another level. At that time, Giovanni’s name was Romeo. And with his love, Juliet, they thought they could end the war between their respective families. But as they tried to kill themselves out of love, they were both turned into vampires and, influenced by their own kind, started to blame each other for the failure of their plan. As time went by, the Mountacutes (Montaigu) led by Romeo, turned Giovanni, found out that, for every generation, one person, with a pure blood could turn every vampire back to a regular human being. And because he lost his bride to the vampire war, Giovanni swore to find a way to eradicate all vampires from the surface of the Earth. Yet, Juliet’s House of K’Pleth (Capulets) managed to either kill or turn into a vampire the pure blood hosts of each generation, until now… For the first time in history, the pure blood are twins, Lola and Mary Price. Mary has chosen the vampire path. Lola is now Giovanni and humanity’s last hope.
Emma drew the first 6 pages if I remember well. Then we had to stop. The sales of Bella Nolita were catastrophic. Clearly, launching this magazine wasn’t a great idea at all. But I held on to the comic project. And some time later, I thought it would be interesting to pitch it as a graphic novel. Enter Yishan Li. I also met Yishan at the Leeds festival. This lady is a fantastic artist. Extremely versatile. She can draw anything in many styles. Emma wasn’t available to draw for me anymore and gave her blessing. Yishan produced a cover (the image on top of this article) and redrew some of the pages that Emma did, but in a more traditional comic book size (the originals were done in magazine size).
But by the time we were ready to go, the Twilight craze was gone, and no one wanted to read the adventures of Romeo and Juliet throwing hordes of vampires at each other for centuries because they were pissed that one survived the other.
Will it ever see the light of day? Probably not. But I’d work with Emma or Yishan again in a heartbeat. This is how comics go folks… In the meantime, you can see what it could’ve been down below and throw comments!
To be continued.