JMS Responds To Superman #703 Lateness

At the pop culture site ICV2, Cincinnati retailer Kendall Swafford expressed his severe annoyance and displeasure over the lateness of Superman #703, featuring Superman walking into Cincinnati. Off his own back, he had arranged a number of promotional events, even getting the mayor to declare tomorrow Superman Day.

However the lateness of the books scuppered many of the plans and Kendall Swafford criticised both DC for lack of promotion and a firm grip and JMS for not even starting writing the comic less than a month ago. And, basically, called for Joe to be fired.

On his Fan Facebook group, JMS answered such criticisms saying;

I lost almost two months to a recurring problem with bronchitis which we seem to have finally gottan in hand, and slipped a bit behind. It was for this reason that I canceled going to Fan Expo in Canada in order to catch up. I'm now caught back up again, and actually a bit ahead. The writing tends to slow down when I'm too sick to drag my carcass to the keyboard.

JMS also took the blame well away from Eddie Barrows, artist on the book saying;

Nope, Eddy's terrific. I've been fighting this freaking lung thing for almost two years…it'd be fine for a few months, then recur…going from flu like symptoms, to a lung inflammation, to a lung infection, to walking pneumonia, to pneum…onia, and then to acute bronchitis. So we had to really dig in hard to stop this from becoming recurring bronchitis, because that's just not on the to-do list. I quite literally wasn't getting the air I needed…for a bit there, my lips were tinged blue. Now at last I understand why I've been so low-energy these last couple of years, and have so often fallen behind. This was also the source of the problems that kept me off several panels at last year's SDCC.

So we hit it with every kind of antibiotic on the planet, plus various steroidal inhalers, and it looks like we've finally beaten it. I've been clear for a while now, and have more energy than I've had in ages. I'm working to get ahead now so there's a cushion in case it's ever needed in future.

And over on Robot6's comment thread he expands on those comments, saying;

For the last two-three years I've been fighting a recurring lung situation that would knock me out of the box every few months. The diagnoses went from just flu-like symptoms to a lung inflammation to a lung infection to walking pneumonia to full-blown pneumonia to acute bronchitis. It kept me in my room for most of SDCC 2009, where I missed several panels because of it, for a while made it iffy if I'd be able to make it to this year's SDCC, and caused me to cancel Fan Expo Toronto in order to catch up on work.

In order to finally stop the recurring problem before it turned into chronic bronchitis, we hit it with every kind of antibiotic you can think of, powerful enough to stun a police dog at twenty paces, and a bunch of inhalers (steroidal advair and albuterol/pro-air being the main ones) to dig it out. For the first time in almost three years, it looks like we've beaten this damned thing. My energy level is up, and I'm charging through pages. So yes, I fell behind due to this…but I'm now not only caught up, but I'm now ahead of the game, turning in pages well ahead of art needs. My goal is to be 2 full issues ahead by NYCC.

Swafford made no attempt to contact me. If he had, I would have told him this. I haven't made much of a deal of it because, quite honestly, I don't like to do so. It's my problem, nobody else's.

Main thing is, as stated, the thing looks like it's finally beaten, and I'm back ahead of schedule, which is the way I prefer it to be.

However he saves the bombshell to the end, that might make Swafford, fists clenched, camera view from above, scream to high heaven "Noooooooo!"

As for 703, while some of the story does take place in Cincinnati, I moved the bulk of the story to Danville, since that's where S&S went to school together. It would be a loss to miss that opportunity.

Joe also seems to dismiss some of the insider information Swafford claimed to hold saying;

They/we/I hoped we would still be able to make that ship date, and were racing to try and get it done. (Contrary to Mr. Swafford, there were pages in hand well before the 28th, and I have the emails to prove it.) It wasn't until pretty much the last minute that the math went against us and we had to surrender that date. BTW, Superman 703 was the only issue to be delayed; WW 603 is scheduled to come out on time, and that one is also ahead on script.

At which point, Kendall Swafford chipped in saying;

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment on this, and thanks especially to Mr. Straczynski for chiming in. I am A) sorry it was an illness that caused the delay on the book and B) happy to hear you are recovering your health and able to return to work.

My naming of names seems to keep distracting the conversation from my main beef; that DC has missed an opportunity to promote this storyline to people outside of our inner circle of comic book fans. Civic pride is a strong motivator for many, many people. Seeing an iconic figure such as the Man of Steel in a real city, MY city or YOUR city, is something that doesn't happen every day. And with my store named Up Up & Away!, it would seem idiotic of me to miss this opportunity. I simply wondered why DC wasn't of any assistance, and questioned why their Sales department couldn't do something to help.

Having the book delayed not once, but twice, after the machinery had been put into motion to promote the event, was frustrating beyond belief, and I think most of you would agree. I never once thought, hoped or expected DC to do my job for me, I did expect them to want to assist a forward-thinking retailer in moving more of THEIR product. Comic books have been published on a regular basis now for 75 years. As a retailer, I see the havoc that late-shipping books cause, and the erosion of interest among the fan base is tangible. The reasons may be unfortunate, sometimes tragic, but a better communication from the publisher would go a long way in keeping a situation such as this from deteriorating even further.

Ultimately, Mr. Straczynski's health is no one's business but his own, and I appreciate his honesty and candor. I spoke with repesentatives from two different departments at DC today, and I think we can all agree to try and move on and move forward in a positive way.

And JMS responded;

Thank you for the reasonableness of your response. I know that DC has wanted to do more direct coordination with stores and the regions in which the story is taking place. It's a big job, and a big country to cover, but they're working hard to pick up the slack. I think you will see some improvements in this area.

One side note (and a correction to a post above, where I typed the wrong name for a town)…and this may be something you can utilize to help promote the book and comics in general…though 703 starts in Cincinnati, it then moves over to Glenville, just east of Columbus. More specifically, it features Glenville High School, which is where Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel first met at the age of 16. (We're using the actual facade of the building and we set some of the story inside the school.) This seemed to me a fitting tribute to that fateful meeting.

So if you wanted to pick up the slack at that end, you could contact and work with the folks at Glenville to promote the book and comics to the media in and around Glenville, and especially to the students at Glenville High.

And next time there's a concern…as noted above, my email address isn't exactly a state secret. Feel free to drop a note and if you're upset about something, feel free to vent it to me directly. I'm a big boy, and I don't mind, especially if I can help or clarify something.

But please, no more One More Day screeds, okay…? The man's not been well.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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