On Business: The Business of Rework

By | Monday, September 14, 2015 Leave a Comment
I'm pretty certain that I didn't catch wind of Athena Voltaire until after it had been around a while. It originally launched as a webcomic in 2002, written by Paul Daly and drawn by Steve Bryant. I probably first heard about it in 2006 when Ape Entertainment published both a printed collection of the webcomics as well as a new adventure called "Flight of the Falcon." I also recall that what caught my eye was the Warren Ellis quote they got about the stories: "Imagine if the likes of The Mummy and Van Helsing were actually, you know, good." The concept is very pulp-inspired and has a lot of action/adventure in an Indiana Jones vein.

Now, what's interesting is that, after the Ape books were published and Daly and Bryant started working on another new story, Daly decided he wanted out. Byrant was still all for moving forward, but because they both contributed to the series, Daly had a say on what got published and how and why. The two were able to work things out so that Bryant could keep working on new Athena Voltaire material, but he basically couldn't use any of Daly's existing/previous work. (By the way, this is obviously the very high-level version of what happened. I don't have -- or want! -- any of the fine details about whatever agreement they worked out. Although Bryant's noted that there's no bad blood from the split.) Which means that Byrant is, in effect, starting over if he wants to get Athena published.

He couldn't go back to Ape because that agreement was with both him and Daly. And he couldn't take anything but his own new material when he talked with other publishers (Bryant had started shopping the book around before Ape folded) or even if he just wanted to republish it himself.

Where, then, does the Athena Voltaire Compendium that Dark Horse published early this year come from?

After Daly and Bryant parted ways, Bryant started reworking the stories they had already completed. Not only rescripting everything, but rewriting the stories by adding entirely new pages of art, as well as re-working some of the existing pages. A total of over 200 pages of rewrites, plus an additional 50 entirely new pages. When I finally sat down and compared the stories side-by-side, I was surprised to see just how different things were. The initial plane escape sequence from "Flight of the Falcon" for example now leads to an extended dog-fight with a giant, winged serpent.

While it took a lot of work (three years, working in and around other paying gigs) I suspect it was that level of passion and dedication that led to Sequential Pulp's Michael Hudson asking Bryant to publish through their Dark Horse imprint. And that's not to say that just putting in that kind of long-term effort is guaranteed to get you a book deal, of course, but I mention it here as an example of not letting good work fall to the wayside. I think that's a lot of what people, freelancers in particular, need to keep in mind in trying to earn a living in the 21st century. Repurposing old material is... well, I wouldn't say critical just yet, but it's certainly very beneficial to keep your overall work moving forward, even if you have to look backwards occasionally to do it.
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