It’s hard to keep a good hero down. And for the DC character the Monolith, his short-lived 2004-05 series saw him break free from his shackles and become a protector of Brooklyn. But he couldn’t break free from the cancellation notice sent down from the publisher after twelve issues. But in a rare twist of fate, the superheroic golem is getting a second chance at life as DC relinquished the rights to the character and the title back to its creators, who are collecting the series for the first time at Image this June. This isn’t the first time a company-owned title has broke free from a publisher, with recent books like The Boys, Fallen Angel and Major Bummer finding a second life outside the auspices of DC, but it remains rare. Created by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray alongside artist Phil Winslade, Monolith split its time between 1930s Brooklyn and the modern day as a Jewish mother and daughter come to terms with the creation of this powerful monster and its own sentient thoughts and actions. Mixing pulp affects with real-life history of Brooklyn in the Great Depression, it acquired a small but strident fanbase during its initial run that came together last year for a “Get Monolith A Trade” campaign on Facebook. That, along with secret talks between the creators and the publisher, led to the book’s rights reverting back to the creators as a stipulation of their original contract. The team’s current plans have the initial collection of the first three issues of Monolith coming out this June in an over-sized European-style album, with a second one to follow. For more, we talked with Palmiotti and Gray.
Newsarama: For a while now you two have been supporting a “Get Monolith A Trade!” Facebook fan campaign, but most people thought imagined the goal was DC printing it, not you taking it elsewhere. How’d it turn into this?Jimmy Palmiotti: We were supporting the fans that created the page and we were hoping it would get the attention of DC Comics and the book would finally be collected…but a lot of things were going on the past year. With all the New 52 going on, it seemed that the chances of it getting collected were slim…and in a way, we couldn’t blame them. When the book first came out, it was not a hit on any level…so why would anyone expect a collection to do well. As it all turned out, the rights reversion came up. We spoke to the legal department and we all figured out a way to make everyone happy, and this is how it came to be. The crew at DC could not have treated us better; they stuck to the letter of the contract and have been extremely generous as always with us. It was a good deal all around and special care was taken to make sure we were happy and satisfied. Its one of the many reasons we love DC Comics so much. Nrama: This isn’t the first time you’ve done this, as former DC/Wildstorm series The Resistance was finally collected in an IDW edition a few years back. It’s not impossible, but pretty rare. What’s the process like?
Palmiotti: It’s a simple process if you look at the contract given to you and read it.
Nrama: We’d love to read it ourselves, but I’m told those things are confidential.
Palmiotti: Yes. There were parts all about ownership, reprint editions and rights reversions and we thought these were extremely generous. There are also guidelines and time frames that I am not at liberty to discuss. I will say that DC has been very good to us and we knew going in what the contract was about and the things the company could do if it felt it wanted to keep publishing the books. The two cases were books they supported when they came out, that they felt had no legs to build on based on sales, and we totally understood that. This was a clear and well-written deal that both parties went into and understood. Looking back, nothing would have made up happier to continue Monolith at DC, but it wasn’t in the cards.Nrama: You two have created a number of unique projects over the years. What makes you two such big fans of this work that you wanted to return to it, and went through the elaborate process of bringing it back?
Palmiotti: This was a creation that Justin and I felt, given the right time and maybe more of a female readership, could have taken off. Believe me, DC tried and we will always be thankful for that effort, but it didn’t hit the way they were hoping.
Justin Gray: I think another important element is knowing your audience. Bringing Monolith into an existing superhero universe from a company with some of the most loved icons in the world is a very difficult task. You also had fans voicing the popular “it will be canceled in x amount of issues” out of the gate as they do with so many books. That’s a hostile environment for new concepts.
Palmiotti: Looking back on the artwork and the product itself, we still feel it stands the test of time and wanted to put it out there in two volumes where we would be able to give the artwork by Phil Winslade a real good spotlight. He did an amazing job on the art and storytelling, and we feel we need to share this work with a new audience and finally collect the book as well. We have been working with Image Comics on a number of projects this past year, as well as the Creator-Owned Comics monthly book hitting in June and figured for the edition, size and hardcover we wanted, they were the perfect match for the project. The great thing about 2012 is that we are seeing a lot more diversity in comics and a wave of female readers that is just amazing, and like some other projects we have done, we think a second shot at sending this out to the world is smart move.
Nrama: Spell it out for us, then – what can people expect with Monolith?Palmiotti: We have some choices to make with issue six, seven and eight. As it stands, we cannot reprint the parts featuring Batman…but the stuff between can be reworked because there were some key character development moments that had nothing to do with the terrorist plotline going on. We are going to take a good hard look at what we can do and decide what is best for the trades.
Nrama: This first collection focuses on the first three issues, collecting them in an oversized European style set of hardcover albums. Why’d you go this route?Palmiotti: That’s simple…respect and showcasing the spectacular artwork by Phil Winslade. One look at the second and third issue and anyone that has an eye for art would want to take a better look. As well, we happen to love the hardcover format and we think retailers enjoy this over just making it a floppy version of a reprint. This format demands more of a shelf life and can endure more mishandling. When you get a second chance at something, you want to do it right and making this more of a deluxe edition in both size and printing is the way to go for us.
Nrama: People will be excited to get this trade of the old material in their hands finally. What are the chances of new Monolith stories coming about?
Palmiotti: Honestly, if a company were interested in it, we would talk. As far as self-publishing it, we would need quite a bit of money to produce new stories. The sales on this and the second trade will tell us for sure of that can happen. We sure hope so. We really believe there is an audience looking for this type of story.
Nrama: And are there any chances of other works you did like 21 Down and Twilight Experiment getting new life outside the auspices of DC?
Palmiotti: We have inquired and as you may know…the Twilight Experiment was collected last year and they promised us that 21 Down would get a large collection soon, so if that’s the case, they will be in good hands for a while. We hope that DC chooses to collect 21 Down soon for sure. Nothing would make us happier if they asked us to do a new series of books…wink , wink.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!