J. Michael Straczynski Explains Artist Change on “Ten Grand”

J. Michael Straczynski made a major announcement via Twitter and Facebook feeds regarding the artwork for “Ten Grand”, the critical and sales hit from Image and Straczynski’s “Joe’s Comics” imprint.  CP Smith is coming on board to replace Ben Templesmith as lead artist for the series, in an attempt to bring this excellent series back on schedule.

“Ten Grand” is the story of Joe Fitzgerald, a mob enforcer who tried to stop after meeting his love Laura…and who was killed along with Laura on what was to be his last hit.  Offered a peculiar deal by an angelic force, Fitzgerald agrees to work as a different kind of enforcer for the reward to meeting Laura for just five minutes each time he dies a righteous death…only to start the whole process over again.  Templesmith’s artwork has been an excellent match for this story up to now, but the series was falling seriously behind in it’s publishing schedule.

Straczynski explains the process involved, including several attempts to get the most recent issue back on track. In the end, there was little choice but to look at a change in artists.  Here’s the full statement from Straczynski’s Facebook page:

  • We have a pair of announcements regarding Ten Grand….As I’ve stated many times in the past, I’m a massive fan of Ben Templesmith’s work.  He’s one of the truly unique voices working in comics today, and we’ve been blessed to have him on board for the launch of our flagship title.When we reignited the Joe’s Comics imprint, we took a blood oath that our books would come out on time, no matter what.  We owe no less than that to both the retailers and the readers.  So each title launched with a buffer.  As I write this, with issue two of Sidekick coming next week, Tom Mandrake is about to roll into the script for issue 4, and Gordon Purcell is finishing up issue two of Protectors Inc. which won’t officially debut until November, and all of Protectors is already written in its entirety.  We lost a little time on all of the titles here and there, due to illness and other factors, but that’s what the buffers were for, so we continued pressing forward to keep the books coming out on time.With Ten Grand, once the script went out to Ben, we would often hear nothing back, despite repeated requests for updates.  Most recently, we gave Ben a full script on July 26th.  It is now September 4th, and we have still not heard anything back from him, despite repeated emails asking where things were, nor have we gotten any pages.  I even tweeted him on August 25th just to make sure he was okay, and though we still didn’t hear back from him, we did hear through others that he’s all right, which is the important thing.  From time to time, every artist and writer falls behind or runs into trouble with the work; I am not only marching in that parade, I am carrying a banner.  But there still has to be some level of communication so that all parties can plan out publishing schedules and make adjustments where needed.So on August 27th, I emailed Ben to say that if we didn’t hear something back by the end of that week, even just a text to say he was underwater, that we would have to find another artist.  I wanted to give him every possible opportunity to come back and make this work.  No reply.  Finally, and with tremendous reluctance, I sent him a note on the 31st saying that we were moving on.  Our obligation to our readers and the retailers has to come first.    To be clear: we are and remain big fans of Ben’s work, and wish him every best.  His art was magnificent and a perfect fit for the storytelling.  If we were doing a graphic novel we’d hire him again in a heartbeat.  So that’s the unfortunate news.The good news…the great news, really…is that we’re pleased to announce that CP Smith has come onto the book as our regular artist.  He is of the strongest and most dynamic voices in the field, and his most recent work on Wolverine Noir has been rightly hailed by reviewers as spectacular.  His dynamic, visually compelling style is totally consistent with the Ten Grand universe, and we are lucky to have him on board.  Quoting CP: “ I am honored and thrilled to be working with JM Straczynski on this ground breaking independent book.  Expect Awesomeness.”

    CP is diving in immediately to catch up and will move heaven and earth to bring the book back into a regular schedule as quickly as possible.  For retailers who are taking orders now for the trade paperback of issues 1-6, we will ship that book as soon as we get all the pieces needed to make that happen.

If there needed to be a change, CP Smith seems to be a great choice, and statements of support are already coming in from fans of the series.  Straczynski’s statement takes the high road while still explaining the issues behind the need for the change.  I’ve double checked something I recalled from earlier, and sure enough there was even an attempt on August 25th by Straczynski to reach Templesmith via Twitter…something you shouldn’t have to do if regular communication channels are working between creators.

ten grand tweet

It’s a difficult thing to do, particularly in the world of creator-owned enterprises, but in the end it’s understandable.  I’m hoping we see more from Templesmith in the future.  But, we are looking forward to seeing this excellent series back in print and back on schedule – and you’ll hear a lot more about “Ten Grand” as the issues come to market.

Ed is a long-time comics collector, going back to the days when comics were only 12 cents. He reviews DC titles and a variety of Indie publishers here at TMStash.

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