Alan Davis seemed like a very nice man when I talked to him in England. He was being polite, that’s the only excuse that I can up with. I had come a long way to talk to him and he didn’t want to just come right out and say it. So he lied to me. It was a reasonably small lie and who knows maybe he even meant it when he said it … or time passed and he changed his mind.
How did I put one of the best pencillers in comics and myself in this position requires a little background.
As publisher of Malibu Comics, I had just returned from Palm Springs (a truly horrible place) and an event to be known as the First Ultraverse Conference. The executives and editors at Malibu, along with the writers who had been tapped to come up with the Ultraverse bible had spent a number of days hold-up in a hotel working out the details of our new universe.
We put together a list of artists that we wanted to be involved in creating the look of the Ultraverse and be the initial artists on the various titles. One of the names that floated to the top of available names was British artist Alan Davis. At the time, he wasn’t under exclusive contract to anyone and our editorial team agreed that having his dynamic approach would be perfect for our titles.
One of the things that our team had learned over the years was this. If something is important, don’t try to do it over the phone. There is something about an in-person conversation that cannot be translated in a phone call. Look in their eyes. Make them understand that it is important.
So I found myself booking a flight to England. The timing was such that Alan Davis would be attending a comic book convention in London and I was going to meet him there. I called Lou Bank, who was working for Marvel UK and told him that I was coming. Lou and I had become fast friends from our time traveling to every trade show and comic convention around the country in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I’d even introduced him to his first wife. Lou offered to let me stay at his apartment.
The trip was long, but spending time with Lou in London was terrific. At the appointed time, I made my way to the convention and got to meet a large number of British comics folk that, at that time, I had only talked with on the telephone or read about in fan magazines. It was exciting knowing what I knew about the Ultraverse, but at that point, there was very little I could discuss with anyone … except Alan Davis.
With all sincerity, I explained how important it was. While I had other business at the convention, I explained I only made the trip because it meant making my offer to him face-to-face.
He listened politely. I described to him our publishing, promotional and advertising plans. I explained that he was being offered a title that was going to be one of the first one’s launched. We were extremely excited by the concept and knew for certain that he was PERFECT for the character, the story and the universe. Malibu was offering Alan Davis the first shot at being the artist on PRIME.
Alan Davis put his hand gently on my shoulder, trying to soften the blow. “I’m not going to draw comics anymore. I’m really sorry,” Alan Davis said to me. My disappointment must have been written all over my face. Here was a truly great comic artist (who arguably had not yet done his best work) telling me that he was retiring. Yeek.
At the bar that night, I talked to a lot of people who verified to me that Alan Davis was extremely and extraordinarily dedicate to his Boy Scout commitments. It seemed that he was telling me the truth.
He would have drawn a compelling and exciting PRIME, there is no question in my mind about that fact. More importantly, I’m really glad that he eventually changed his mind (maybe he just waited until his son was past Boy Scout age) because the comics business would have missed all his terrific work in the last 15 years.
That’s my version of the story.
NEXT: Why I feel lucky, proud and glad that Alan Davis didn’t become the PRIME artist.