Sporadic Sequential
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Civil Solution

If I were an editor at Marvel, here's how I would have handled the delays in the Civil War schedule:

As soon as it was evident that McNiven wouldn't be able to complete Civil War #4 on time, I would have begun working on putting together a fill-in issue. But not just any fill-in issue -- a super-special, jam-packed, all-star artist issue!! Rather than bringing in one unlucky sap to rush out the book, I would have divvied out the pages to multiple artists (all popular ones, natch). By spreading out the workload to multiple artists, you should be able to get the book out on time still, even allowing for issues of coordination and bringing the new artists up to speed. Then Marvel could bill the fill-in as a "jam" issue with all of the fans' favorite artists and even work in some bullshit spin like: "Civil War has been so hot that all of these artists wanted a piece of the action, and who were we to disappoint the likes of John Cassaday, Frank Cho, and Leinil Yu? Plus, nearly a dozen more top talents lend their artistic abilities to the most popular series of the century!! Truly, this is the Mighty Marvel age of Sharing The Wealth! Excelsior!!" Suddenly the change in artist becomes a positive, not a negative.

But just in case there were fans who would prefer a common creative team throughout the whole series, I'd also announce that Marvel would be putting out a special "Original Artist" alternate version of Civil War #4 illustrated by Steve McNiven after the whole series was completed. (Hey, Marvel already does alternate covers, so why not entire alternate comics? Plus, they could still have alternate covers on the alternate version of #4, so they could squeeze even more money out of their fanbase.)

So McNiven would skip working on #4 and jump to #5 while others completed #4. McNiven would complete #5, #6, and #7 before going back to "remaster" #4. Then when the collected edition came out, you could include McNiven's version of #4 in the proper story flow and include the "fill-in" issue as a back-up feature, along with all the alternate covers, sketches, and other standard bonus material.

This way Marvel wouldn't have to delay their entire line to accommodate one late book. The important story beats from #4 could still be told in time; the books that followed up on events in #4 could still come out on schedule; and retailers wouldn't be left with a big gap in their sell cycle. (Granted, retailers would still have to figure out how to adjust orders on the "artist jam" fill-in issue, but perhaps Marvel could offer to accept unsold copies in a show of good faith. I would guess that such a fill-in issue would sell as well as (if not better than) the "regular" issue by McNiven would have.) And then, after the whole mini-series was completed, Marvel could release McNiven's version of #4 and potentially gain even more revenue from the series. (I'm guessing most completists would buy both versions of #4. Heck, I'm not buying Civil War and even I might be curious to see how different artists handled the same script.)

So, genius or sheer stupidity? Would fandom embrace this scenario, or would they condemn it as greedy corporate double-dipping? U-DECIDE!!!