From 2005 to 2009, the comic series The Middleman lived up to its motto, “fighting evil so you don’t have to.” But after four miniseries and a short-lived but beloved television series, it disappeared… but now it’s back.
Creators Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine are bringing The Middleman back in a big way, but need your help. The duo are seeking support via Indiegogo to fund new editions of the long-out of print Middleman collections, as well as a new full-length graphic novel. To top it all off, they’ve gotten commitments from the entire cast of the television series to do a live reading of the new graphic novel.
For those late to the game, The Middleman covers its titular star, which is not just a character but a franchise. The Middleman is a job, handed down throughout the years and tasked to protect the world from evil in all its forms. With orders sent down from a shadowy organization called Organization Too Secret To Know (O2STK for short), the Middleman and his or her trainee fight crime whenever they can find it. In the various comic series we’ve seen four different Middlemans, ranging from a modern-day hero to Middlemans based in eras like the 1940s, the Victorian age, and even in barbaric times akin to Conan.
And now as The Middleman crew preps for new adventures, Newsarama talked to its writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach about the new work, the Indiegogo campaign, and the strange journey that brought them here.
Newsarama: Javi, after four years off comic book shelves you and Les McClaine are plotting a return for your series The Middleman. Can you tell us about your plans and this Indiegogo campaign?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach: Thank you for covering our humble effort! What Les, and Viper Comics and I are doing is two fold.
One, we are reviving The Middleman by crowd-funding a brand new, full length original graphic novel that will tie together the TV and comic book continuities. Ever since the show was cancelled in '08, people continually ask me what happened to the characters – and the last graphic novel we did in the comics continuity ended with a pretty big cliffhanger... with this story, we are tying it all up together in a neat bow, and leaving the world open for more adventures.
Our second – and equally important – goal is to make sure that the comics have a home. It has become increasingly difficult for small presses to keep their books in print for sustained periods of time, comic book retailers are notoriously conservative and tend to order titles they know will sell. Even for a book with a media presence like The Middleman, it's hard to convince people to stock the titles... so part of the crowd-fund will go toward redesigning the legacy titles, including the lost thirteenth episode graphic novel so that we can offer them in large-sized editions with matching covers, and then put them in a print on demand web store at a fair price.
Part of this comes from my going on Amazon to find our compendium edition and finding it for over a hundred dollars! Now, I'm as vain as the next guy and think our work has a lot of value – but I want everyone to be able to get the books and not have the price be dictated by scarcity!
Finally, the crowd-fund is going to allow us to do a live reading of the script for the new graphic novel – which will allow us to get the TV cast back together (we truly are a big happy family), so middle-fans can see these awesome people playing these roles again without having to pony up Veronica Mars money!
Nrama: So these books you’re looking to fund, they’re both new and old material, correct?
Grillo-Marxuach: There are going to be six Middleman books altogether in the web store - from the first three volumes, to a special edition called The Middleman: Volume 3.14 - The Legends of the Middleman Dossier one shot (written by me, with art by Josh Howard, Ryan Cody and Tom Kurzanski), the thirteenth episode graphic novel (written by me with Hans Beimler, with art by Armando Zanker) and – the crowning jewel – the new graphic novel, which will be drawn by Les McClaine!
Nrama: What’s the new graphic novel about?
Grillo-Marxuach: Our new graphic novel, which Les will have completed for a launch on or around SDCC in 2014, is called The Middleman: The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation and it picks up exactly twelve minutes after our last book – with the revelation of what truly happened to Wendy Watson's father... and how that triggers a collision of parallel universes that brings the TV and comic book characters together in a major adventure. if you love The Middleman, I assure you, everything you want is here – from answers to big questions, to more pop culture references than you can shake a ten foot stick at!
Nrama: How much money are you looking to raise with The Middleman Indiegogo campaign, and what specifically would that go for?
Grillo-Marxuach: All of this can be yours for the bargain prize of $40,000! Like I said above – we are asking for a lot less than a lot of media-based crowd-funds: I think that to try and remake The Middleman as a webseries, or a movie or something like that is beyond our capacity right now – we have a devoted fanbase, but it is a small fanbase, and hopefully this will help us grow it... what is important to me is that we preserve our legacy by keeping our books in print, put out new material, and give the series cast an opportunity to do something cool for the fans who have supported us this far.
Nrama: What kind of pledging rewards do you plan on offering?
Grillo-Marxuach: Well, the big ticket item is going to be – of course – admission to the live reading! It really will be a unique opportunity for fans to see the cast – as well as special guest star Amber Benson (of Buffy fame!) who will be reading the role of "Comic Book Wendy" – and get their premiums signed – and we already have a date: May 24th, 2014 and commitments from the cast!
In addition, Les McClaine is really stepping up here – not only has he created an original print, which we will run in a limited edition as a crowd-funding perk, he has also contributed over a hundred of his original, hand-drawn pages which we will be offering as perks. We are also kicking in some original items I had made as gifts for The Middleman crew... and, of course, in our topmost tier, you could not only be drawn into the book as a cameo – you also get to read your cameo role with the cast!
Nrama: You and Les launched The Middleman as a comic series in 2005, but it was made into the short-lived but beloved television series for Disney’s ABC Family channel. I know for TV you normally have to sign over some kind of rights – will that TV series affect what you can do here with The Middleman comic?
Grillo-Marxuach: I love comics. I love Les McClaine's work, and I love The Middleman – so when the time came to make the deal to sell The Middleman to Disney/ABC Family, I asked to keep the rights to make more Middleman graphic novels – and surprisingly, they said yes! So this is just us (me, Les and Viper) exercising that right!
Nrama: For its entire life, The Middleman has been published by Viper Comics—from its debut in 2005 to the compendium in 2008. Why aren’t they publishing this out of the gate – are they still in the picture?
Grillo-Marxuach: Oh, they are in the picture – the new book and the old books are all a joint production of me, Les, and Viper – they have been incredible partners to me and to The Middleman, and they were gracious enough to let me take out what is one of their core properties and give it a spin in the wild and wooly frontier of crowdfunding. Believe me, Jessie Garza and his gang believed in us from jump street, and we're glad that they are on board.
Nrama: This is a return to comics for you, after writing The Middleman and doing work for Marvel and Dynamite. Any plans to do other comics in addition to this?
Grillo-Marxuach: I never say never. I had some great experiences working for the majors – and I had one or two not so great ones. What it taught me was that when you have both a day job in television and a desire to pursue independent projects for your own edification (like crowd-funding The Middleman) you take work in mainstream comics at your own peril – you do it for love of the game, and you do it because you love the project you are taking on, and even then, there are no guarantees that it won't all go badly because of decision outside your control... so the answer is I'd love to, but as it is not my main career focus, I have to do it at a time when I know I can deliver in a timely fashion (I hate it when high-profile writers miss deadlines!) – and also have a good shot at delivering material that we can all be proud of.