Last week, Rob Liefeld, co-creator of Cable, Deadpool and Youngblood, talked about his losing the rights to publish Youngblood, and publicly quitting the title. Emphasising that he would not be involved in its publication, and stating that it was now being published by one Andrew Rev, someone he had some choice words to describe.
I have been trying to speak to Andrew Rev for 19 years. The former publisher of Comico and the owner of Elementals in the nineties has made himself purposefully unapproachable over the decades. But now the apparent upcoming publisher of Youngblood, and the man behind the new publisher Terrific Production LLC, which made its debut at San Diego Comic-Con, was willing to talk to me. A lot. Just not to say too much.
I say not too much, we spoke for almost four hours on Facetime and I had many questions to ask him. Sadly he was unable to answer most of them. What follows is a very brief summation of that conversation and a sense of what Andrew Rev’s plans are now. I did not get into many of his past business practices, as he was keeping his cards close to his chest. I hope to revisit that.
Rev wouldn’t tell me where the money behind his purchase of Comico and the Elementals came from. He wouldn’t confirm what titles from Comico he owned, though I did note recent trademark applications by Comico for Elementals characters Vortex, Monolith and Morningstar (Aspen has Fathom, of course). He would not even mention Rob Liefeld, Youngblood or any other Liefeld property by name, occasionally alluding to ‘the creator’ or ‘that property’. He also wouldn’t talk about the Dynamite legal case over the Elementals trademarks. And he wouldn’t talk about where the money for Terrific Production LLC was coming from either.
He did talk about his early life as a comic book fanboy. How he was there at a comic convention when as a very young kid, he saw a seventeen-year-old Bernie Wrightson get his big break and saw his own comment, that Bernie’s work was like Frank Frazetta picked up by the editor at the show, Dick Giordano, who gave Wrightson a job on the spot. And he learnt that this is how things could be.
He talked about his initial dealings with Comico, being one of just wanting to help out before getting more and more involved as the company had financial difficulties and he took over. He claims the credit, regarding Matt Wagner‘s Grendel or persuading Wagner to keep the series going to issue 50 rather than 40, and instigating a Grendel Tales spinoff book.
Regarding the much delayed Batman/Grendel crossover series, a delay for which he is often blamed, he points the finger at a clash of contracts, mounting legal costs, and debts from a previous iteration of the company weighing the project down – and a falling out with DC Comics. Which all resulted in Batman/Grendel not being the first Big Two/indie official comics crossover.
He told me about how after the first issue of the relaunched Elementals series was published, he got a call from DC publisher Paul Levitz to tell him that the artist had drawn Marvel characters on the front cover, facing off against the Elementals. And how this led to a meeting with Marvel in New York to explain the situation, agreeing to take a Cease & Desist notice from Marvel as a slapped wrist and to move on, Only for Levitz to then point out that there were also DC characters on that cover, that DC didn’t play like Marvel and his first comic as the new Comico would have to be pulped. If Rev hadn’t had the funds, that would have sunk Comico.
As a result of the pulping and reprinting of the title, Andrew removed the Comico titles that were being printed through DC Comics, taking advantage of their low printing costs, he hired an attorney over the planned Batman/Grendel and its contractual issues, and it was this that delayed Batman/Grendel more than anything.
We were about two hours in at this point.
He also talked about how in 1992, he got a call from Jim Lee asking if he would like to publish what would later be known as Image Comics though Comico, and he agreed. Rev offered guaranteed 100,000 sales for each issue, and 70-30 splits of income in Jim Lee’s favour – with different figures for each creator depending on their prominence and popularity. But Rev believes that it was Liefeld who made the decision on this and Malibu’s Scott Rosenberg had the relationship with Liefeld. More on that to come, of course. But he sees Rosenberg’s genius as selling and placing advertising in those early Image Comics titles, advertising agency contacts from whom he was then able to leverage spending commitments when launching the Malibu Ultraverse line after the Image Comics people set up their own shop – which was always their expressed plan.
Of course, he’s still not actually referring to Liefeld here, which means we go through all sorts of convoluted loops, sentence structures, dead ends and divergences. Two and a half hours now.
He did want to talk about a creator who was contracted to work on a title that, eleven issues completed in, still hadn’t seen publication, and asked if he could get out of his contract to work on a higher profile comic, s-force, a comic that Liefeld had originated. And that Rev agreed but then held back publication even further until the artist started getting published work and the publicity that goes with it, and only then published the series.
Again, mentioning no names, he reiterated that any title he may or may have not bought in this story, he did not do directly, but from Scott Rosenberg who wanted to sell the rights that he owned, as Liefeld’s creations were divided between Liefeld, Rosenberg and Jonathan Hyde. And that’s how Terrific Production, LLC acquired the rights to make products such as Youngblood – even if Rev won’t confirm it or say its name. He asked if I knew what tortuous interference was. I think we all do right now, yes? But he reiterated that his company Terrific Production hadn’t even been formed when the first Youngblood deal was done. Though he didn’t say Youngblood…
He wanted to emphasis, three hours in, that Terrific was new, and as a new company, Liefeld (again, he didn’t name him) had no business being in up their conversations or differences, he’s not just a creator, but a publisher, an owner, and this should be above him, he wonders what example he is giving to other up-and-coming people. Terrific didn’t exist when the Liefeld/Rosenberg deal happened on Youngblood. And Rev only recently talked to Rob, meeting at San Diego, when something was actually happening regarding him and the comic. He says he is open to ‘the creator’ take a role in the comic, writing,m drawing, suggesting artists, even brainstorming, but the risks of production and publication are on Terrific not Rob anymore.
He also wanted to talk about being at San Diego Comic Con with Steven Rev, his brother and familiar name from Comico – and those Comico trademark registrations. Emphasising that Terrific Production is a new company and he was reviewing portfolios, and interviewing gifted artists, from Brazil, Mexico, US, UK, Canada, and more, They didn’t know he was looking for artists for Youngblood and he didn’t say. Hell, he didn’t even say Youngblood to me but we got there eventually.
He underlined that Marvel wasn’t doing portfolio reviews on the second floor, and for the bigger publishers still doing them there is no one there who can say ‘you have a job’. And while it was difficult to get access to them, it was easier to get access to Terrific, he guaranteed every person there his email address, guaranteed review. And wanted to replicate that Bernie Wrightson moment with someone.
He talked about merchandise growth being essential to the comics industry, which he sees as using comics as a loss leader, and that his connections with the East Asian markets – and how he is often in Vietnam – give him insight. Three and a half hours now – and we got to the real nitty-gritty.
He told me how Elementals and Youngblood (again, without naming them) are just the beginning for Terrific Production. Whether for merchandise or for publication, Terrific is planning licensing creator-owned or company-owned comic books, whether as a license based on a percentage of returns or outright purchase of the whole IP in and of itself. And that how most comics may get by with the comic, a few pins and a t-shirt, he can see the potential for forty or fifty totally different items for each property.
He wasn’t ready to announce, but events – including Bleeding Cool’s participation – have tipped his hand and we may learn more, sooner. He suggested that he had signed up some very big names already – but suggested that Bleeding Cool’s coverage may give other creators or owners the opportunity to get in touch if they want to have a conversation. And that Terrific Production is looking to acquire lots of properties and rights, lock stock.
Which means he’s also like to talk to John Hyde over whichever of the Extreme/Awesome catalogue he has gotten his hands on. And with Rosenberg and Liefeld, he would like to bring the whole family of Rob’s work back together again…
Four hours and we’re done. I look forward to hearing more. Maybe in bullet point this time?