Monday, January 22, 2007

Alan Weiss And The Legendary 'Lost' Warlock

How many times do you get the opportunity to revisit an article? Let me answer that with one word, Jimmy, rarely.

I remember writing this article back in mid 2003 after I interviewed Jim Starlin. For me the '70s at Marvel were the top of the tree. When you consider the talent they had working there from about '71 though to '81 you can't help but be amazed: Neal Adams, Alan Weiss, Jim Starlin, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum (who could design brilliant costumes out of nothing), Steve Leiahola, Frank Brunner, Paul Gulacy, Steranko, Rich Buckler, Doug Moench, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Tony Isabella, Walter Simonson, Michael Golden, along with traditional mainstays such as John Buscema, Herb Trimpe, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Jim Mooney, John Romita, Don Perlin, Andru & Esposito - the list is long and stunning (and far from complete here). Hence that time period has always been one I've looked upon with a large amount of fondness. It's why I tend to focus a lot of my attention on people who worked at Marvel at that time (I've lost track of the amount of times I've sent emails to the likes of Tony Isabella asking the most insane questions - to his credit he might look at them and say, "Oh crap, not this idiot again," but he always answers).

There's always been some people on the top of my list that I want to interview - and Starlin was right up there. When he consented to an interview I was over the moon and I was even happier that it came off as well as it did. I still believe Starlin's Warlock Saga wrap up (Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2) are amongst the best comics Marvel produced during the '70s for both story and art. Shortly after I posted the interview the 'lost' Warlock pages were sent to me.

I can't recall who emailed me the 'lost' Warlock pages but they came in with a great story indeed and most of that story revolved around how Alan Weiss had left those pages in a cab. Indeed, as you can clearly see, Comic Book Artist #18 (Feb 2002 - an issue I'd not seen that that point) even mentions how Weiss left the pages in a cab. What the heck - it sounded reasonable at the time so I wrote the article up, posted the pages and left it at that.

Flash forward to late 2006. I found myself on the phone to Alan Kupperberg who mentioned this article and how he couldn't help but send the link to Alan Weiss. Kupperberg then mentioned that Weiss was very bewildered about the whole thing because, as everyone knew, he (Weiss) didn't leave the pages in the cab. It was someone else. A few weeks later I found myself on the phone to Alan Weiss and we spoke about the pages in depth, that interview you can find down the page here. All Alan wants is for the record to be set straight, and for the record, I am now also privy as to who exactly did leave the pages in the cab, and I can tell you right here, right now, it wasn't Alan Weiss...

Here's the original article, with one alteration - the part about the cab.


This months comic is one that you've probably never even heard of, let alone seen - the legendary 'lost' Warlock issue.

In the mid to late 1970's both Jim Starlin and Warlock were a hot property. Marvel, and for that matter the comic industry as a whole, couldn't get enough of either and Starlin's massive Thanos/Warlock saga was going through it's second stage. The first Thanos saga had played it's way out in the pages of Captain Marvel, and the second Thanos saga had become intertwined with the Warlock saga, thus forever linking both characters for all time. Starlin began the Warlock saga in the pages of Strange Tales (from issue 178) and it wasn't long before Warlock was featured in his own book. However as rapidly as Marvel had expanded it soon retracted and the result was a lot of high quality books suffered from cancellation. The result of the cancellation was that some major story-lines were unresolved, and creators scrambled to wrap up plot lines as best they could in other books that they might have been worked on at the time - Claremont and Byrne wrapped up Iron Fist in the pages of Marvel Team-Up, Steve Gerber attempted to finish off Omega The Unknown in the pages of The Defenders and Jim Starlin finished the Warlock/Thanos saga in two Marvel annuals - Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual 2.

Before Starlin took the Warlock/Thanos saga to the annuals he co-plotted an issue of Warlock that was slated to be issue 16 of the book. However once the book was cancelled the issue was shelved and partially completed with the idea that it'd become an inventory issue - one of those great Marvel creations. Inventory issues would be written and drawn and then put on the shelf. If an issue wasn't going to make deadline then the inventory issue, usually something that had no continuity within the Marvel Universe, would be slotted in and thus the regular book would continue to appear.

Sadly the pages for what would have been Warlock #16 never appeared - indeed they were never finished. This was due the pages being left in a taxi in New York sometime in the mid to late 1970's. These pages were thought lost for all time until recently when photocopies of some of the pages started to turn up. Sixteen pages in total have been made available, so if you like your Warlock being cosmic, then sit back and enjoy the pages of the Lost Warlock Issue, as co-plotted by Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss, and pencilled by Weiss.

Now here's the 2006 interview with Alan Weiss in which he finally explains, once and for all, what really happened...

ALAN WEISS: There are elements of that job that are going to haunt me, not the least of which is, ‘left in a cab’.
DANIEL BEST: Let’s put it on the record then. Starlin was the one who told me that you left it in a cab.
AW: He just said it like that?
DB: Not exactly like that. He told me that it was his belief that the art was left in a cab.
AW: It was left in a cab, but that’s different to I left it in a cab.
DB: The story is that you did the pencils on the job and somewhere along the line it was left in a cab…
AW: [chuckles] Yeah.
DB: …and you were the last person to hold it.
AW: Well if I had been holding it, it wouldn’t have been lost. Starlin and I had just driven across the country to Detroit and then I flew into New York where I was going to stay with Al Milgrom. When I landed there were a couple of other people there at the airport, one of which was going to help me, you know, “Can I help you? Can I carry anything?” So I grabbed the heavy bags and said, “You get the rest.” Among that rest was a whole thing of artwork. It wasn’t a formal portfolio as such but it was like a cardboard folder which I always carried my artwork in at that time. So he didn’t take that out of the cab. Later that night I’m looking around for it and I said, “So where’d you put the thing with the artwork?”
“What?”

So that was the story. I don’t mention who it was. Not too many of us know that but Alan Kupperberg is one who knows that and Starlin should have known that too. [laughter] Otherwise it sounds like, 'What was wrong with Weiss?’ [laughter] Was he that stoned? Was he that drunk? What? What could it have been? And I’m thinking, no. Listen, I had a lot of stuff in there. I could have been crushed but I was in such a good space that I wasn’t going to identify with it. That whole Warlock issue was in there. I knew there were existent Xeroxes that, if were actually going to get to do the job, we could recreate it from it.

And that’s the other side of the story – that almost happened twice! We were going to do the story for Marvel Fanfare but the book died before it was done, that happens all the time. Then we were going to do it when Starlin brought back Warlock with Craig Anderson in the early ‘90s. About the time it was supposed to happen I got the chance to create my own brand new superhero with Jim Shooter at Defiant. It was ready to go. We had the agreement but I said, “I can’t pass this up, so as soon as I get a chance we’ll do it.” By the time War Dancer was over so was the Warlock book and so was the editor. I never did reproduce it and that’s a shame.

I was very happy with that. I think I was going to ink that myself. I know that Starlin and myself plotted it together so it was cool. That’s the way you want to work, it was literally, I said, “What do you want to write?” and he said, “What do you want to draw?” So we spent and afternoon and put things together and that’s what we got. It was all the things I had in mind, “Oh wouldn’t it be cool if we drew these.” I wanted to do some hobbit like variation and, of course, with Warlock you’re going to put it into space so it’s some sort of gnomes, elves and fairies. And then there’s that one whole page where Warlock is fantasizing and he sees himself as a Richard Corben character, kind of those small proportions, muscular and realistically rendered and maybe four feet high. Then of course he wakes up and there’s the Gulliver’s Travels version of him in chains.

I was very pleased with that story. I liked it. I thought it was a nice touch on Warlock. I’d known Starlin since he first started Warlock. It didn’t occur to me that anything could go missing. I said, “I’m taking the heavy stuff, you take everything else,” which was light so how are you not going to get it? There were a couple of covers in there.

DB: It’s amazing that stuff has never surfaced since.
AW: I have yet to see any of it resurface, but there it is. If I wasn’t in such good shape that would have been the worst omen to come back to New York after being away for three years or so in California, it would have been crushing, but I was in such a non-materialistic state of mind that I just thought, ‘Oh well, it was meant to be.” We never got that issue out.

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